If you are an organization with a limited budget but an intense need to better understand the audiences you serve, what are the best research methods to pursue?

That was the question from two nonprofit executives tasked with planning market research to support a new marketing plan.

Before diving into planning market research, I asked about old research they had. Although the most recent customer research was five years old, a cursory review of the customer segmentation it generated suggested its research methods were sound.

With that preliminary check on the previous research methods, we spent our time discussing what they could discover from what they had in hand before planning market research. We also discussed market research others have done or might be doing, in addition to informal listening posts they could deploy right away.

14 Questions Before Planning Market Research

Whenever you are planning market research, these fourteen questions comprise a money, time, and effort-saving list to explore!

Examining Your Own Previous Market Research

  • Was the output valuable (made sense, spurred insights, suggested smart directions, etc.), even if we didn't use it?
  • Are the results valuable, accurate, and recent enough that we can use them to start thinking about future research?
  • Do we have the original data set to slice and dice the results for new insights?
  • Are there questions in the previous work that we can incorporate into new research methods?
  • Have we linked the customer survey results to internal metrics to find predictive relationships?
  • If we haven't linked customer survey results to your internal metrics, is there the possibility of doing it now?

Exploring Research Others Have Done

  • What other organizations have asked and answered comparable question to ones we have?
  • What experts have insights into the questions we want to answer?
  • Are there industry associations with ideas on answers or research methods to make us smarter?

Anticipating Surveys Others May Be Doing

  • Are there other organization's surveying our audience that might allow us to include some questions?
  • Could we propose a joint research project with another organization to satisfy our mutual needs?
  • Are there university programs where students can conduct research for us?

Considering Preliminary Research to Perform

  • What research methods can we use to reach out to customers on a manageable scale to gain their perspectives?
  • How could asking questions informally help identify potential new questions, important attributes, or other insights to shape planning market research we will conduct?

That’s a Start!

There are more questions you can ask, but even these will make sure you get as much value as you can from other sources before you begin planning market research initiatives that require substantial investment. - Mike Brown


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