How much of my time and budget should be spent on market research?
Written by: Paul Stallard
How long is a piece of string? That might not sound terribly helpful, but the reality is that the answer to how much time and budget you should spend on market research is, ‘it depends’. The best way to think about how to allocate your resources is to work through what you are trying to achieve.
For example, if you are conducting market research purely to get some statistics to back up your PR campaign, and give it credibility with the media and public, this can be done quickly and cost-effectively. If you are very clear about the issue that you are promoting, and just need to quantify some key points amongst a clearly defined audience, you can conduct a short online survey or an omnibus question research. Depending on your sample size, and who you want to interview, a survey of this nature costs just a few thousand and is typically turned around in a week or two.
You may also want to gain some more qualitative colour to add to your story, such as the opinions of the general public, or members of your specific target audience about your issue. In this case you may wish to run focus groups or conduct in-depth interviews, which will give you more insight into your topic and also verbatim quotes that you can use to bring your story or campaign to life. Focus groups are a cost-effective way to interview multiple people together and, as they are typically audio and video recorded, provided you get permission from your respondents, you can use the content in the media. Qualitative research such as this does take a little longer than an online survey and can cost a little more, but the results give you a great return on investment. As a budget option, online focus groups or discussions can be much cheaper and quicker to conduct, and give you text-based verbatim quotes, which work well in print media.
Finally, if you have a complex issue that needs some real understanding you may want to conduct market research throughout the campaign, using different tools at different stages. For example you could conduct qualitative research early on to explore how the issue plays out with different audiences; then as your campaign progresses, you can use quantitative research to test how different messages are received, and help you make decision about how to progress. This approach needs more resource, but can help keep a complicated campaign moving in the right direction.
Overall, the key is to think about what you want to achieve with the market research, and to be guided by what sort of your return you will get for your time and investment.
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