Reducing Distractions and Developing Greater Focus to Achieve More Effective Market Research Results
Recently, I sat at the park watching my daughter juggle her soccer ball. It was a skill she had practiced for more than a year, and she was able to juggle the ball hundreds of times before it would tumble to the ground. As I tolerated the heat on that triple-digit Arizona evening, I watched the ball move from her toes to her thighs over and over again and was mesmerized not only by her movements, but also by her ability to ignore the weather and activities around her to focus on setting a personal record.
Suddenly, I realized the complexity of her skill mastery and the discipline required to achieve her goal. She had the right equipment, had been taught the proper technique to move her legs, understood the time commitment and space required to practice, and accepted the challenge of minimizing distractions, or reducing “noise,” to perform to her potential.
I related this observation of my daughter’s juggling activity to market research behaviors. Market researchers, in their quest to share knowledge and to provide business answers and solutions, must have the expertise and diligence to appropriately design, field and produce deliverables. They must select the right tools, be proficient with proposed methodologies and techniques, manage tasks, anticipate obstacles and execute on a plan of action, all while staying focused and reducing distractions, or noise, to satisfy agreed-upon study objectives.
Here are some practical tips and activities to reduce research noise to achieve qualitative study results.
Select the Proper Equipment
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When responding to a request for proposal, or RFP, let the study objectives rather than suggested methodology drive the research approach. Clients often recommend that research should be conducted in a defined manner, such as via in-person interviews, online surveys or bulletin board platforms. Before submitting a bid, consult with the client to fully understand the objectives since the unwritten goals may ultimately warrant an alternative research method. Learn what events may have prompted the research and whether the objectives are exploratory, tactical or informational. Also, identify key stakeholders, timing, expectations, respondent criteria, budget and fit, among other variables. Questions to ask include:
- What is the impetus for the research and why is the research required?
- What knowledge gaps are you trying to fill?
- What decisions will the research findings inform?
By acting as a thinking partner and considering the motivations and expectations regarding the request, you can propose an optimal recruitment strategy, fielding approach and team to bring the study to fruition.
Have a Game Plan
While it’s important to be agile, it’s equally important to begin with the end in mind when formulating your game plan. One important step is thinking through all the details to identify potential roadblocks or hurdles and ask whether these have been considered in the timeline. For example, walk through details with the team to identify if there are dependent steps (e.g., determining whether the creative agency has sufficient time to provide the stimuli on the promised date) for which a Plan B may be needed. Also, it can be especially helpful as you design your discussion guide or survey to anticipate how responses will materialize in the final report. Discussion guide development is often fraught with noise challenges when the project objectives and associated questions the client wishes to ask far exceed reasonable time available. Refer to this post for tips on how to eliminate noise in your discussion guide development process.
Perform to Your Potential
Once you select the proper tools and establish a game plan, aim to perform to your potential. As a moderator, consider listening to a few prior study interviews to refine your technique. This technique can help eliminate the “crutch” ums, OKs or uh-huhs you didn’t realize have crept in as a habit, which are unconsciously creating distracting noise for your listeners or viewers. For new projects, consider practicing for interviews by recording and then assessing a video or audio interview, or by role-playing with colleagues. These activities prime the research team for potential objections and evaluate how well fielding materials, including online surveys or discussion guides, lead to desired feedback and insights. While it is easy to allow the backroom and respondents to influence interview flow and to introduce noise, it is essential to stay on track and to capture relevant responses. Schedule in-market team debriefs and create interim summaries to validate teams that have reduced the noise and stayed on track during and post fielding.
At this phase in research, the team has juggled multiple priorities and is responsible for producing the “so what” about the research findings. To transform information into a meaningful story, begin by collaborating with the client to create a report outline and to reaffirm how the research will be used for decision-making for stakeholders attending the readout meeting. Next, review all interview notes, transcriptions, debriefs and interim summaries and identify themes related to each study objective. Remove superfluous information or information that is not relevant to the study objectives, hence noise, and begin distilling information into key findings. Eventually, the story will unravel and you will be able to present an executive summary and support the story with details and respondent quotes. The final deliverable will represent a deliberate and concerted effort to address study objectives.
What are your favorite tips or best practices for reducing noise in your research efforts?