Research fuels all the truly great ideas marketers use today. Any good researcher will tell you the more information and data you can gather, the better. Ideally you’d be able to use several methodologies to gather as much information as possible to create the most detailed picture of the market, target audience, competitors, etc. But not every research budget allows you to hold focus groups, send out surveys and conduct in depth interviews. And even if you have a large budget, you can do a lot of research without getting the real insights you need because of weak analysis. That’s why a research team that uses creative approaches is critical.
Creativity isn’t just reserved for the design team, it should be a part of every marketing team member’s thought process (to hear the rest of this rant click here). Taking a creative approach to research sets the tone for the rest of the marketing process to be innovative, unique and well-crafted. The best research teams keep this in mind:
- Don’t just stick with the same old methods because they’re comfortable. Step outside your comfort zone and come up with some new ways to get insight into the target audience. Maybe its impromptu street interviews, maybe it’s a verbal poll in the board room, just make sure your method will help you reach your research objectives.
- Get creative to guarantee participation. Don’t just send out the survey and cross your fingers that your incentive will be enough to give you the response rate you need. Come up with an amazing, original incentive that the audience will just love (maybe they’ll be more excited about a giant chocolate bar than a $5 bill). And don’t forget to use your personal and professional networks to spread the word. Use existing brand platforms that already have a built in audience like social media, e-newsletters or websites.
- Don’t ask what you already know. After years of developing surveys, interview plans and focus group outlines, it’s easy to get stuck in the same pattern of questions. Get all your questions down on paper and then go back and slough off the questions that your secondary research has already addressed and/or questions that really don’t match your research objectives. You’ll be surprised how little is left. That’s when you can force yourself to think outside the obvious questions and get to the real insightful content. This requires some boldness. Be confident in your existing secondary research conclusions so you don’t end up using the primary research to re-confirm your findings.
- Make it interesting for the participants. Everyone has taken a survey or answered some interview questions at some point in their life and been bored to tears. If you don’t captivate the participants’ attention, you’ll get rote answers that turn into useless data. Come up with creative ways to deliver the questions. Vary the format, introduce images and interactivity, and reword things so the participant wants to give a complete, honest answer. Just be sure your content and format are going to accomplish your research objectives. The end game is still to come away with key findings that help develop a strategy that will accomplish the marketing goals.
- Don’t Isolate Data – If you’ve done your job, the data from each question you ask will give you a valuable finding. But if you limit the analysis to singular insights from each question and data set, you’ve missed the creative research mark. Take a step back and start cross referencing data sets, overlay something your learned about the target audience’s psychographics with their demographics, check primary data against secondary data. That’s when the real findings start to surface and those are usually the conclusions that become the backbone of the marketing strategy.
- Vary Your Visuals – By the time you get to the analysis stage, you’ve been knee deep in the research project for quite some time. It’s easy to miss a critical conclusion after living and breathing this research for so long. Sometimes perspective is all you need to trick your brain into taking a fresh look. Don’t just look at plain old data sets sitting at your desk. First, take a step back and review the research objectives. Then change locations, create some new charts and graphs to view the data, go old school and start making a pile of sticky notes with question or insights. Create a new way of looking at all the information you’ve compiled and you’ll be surprised what you missed.
Of course every professional tackles research projects armed with a myriad of research tools to help compile data, gather information and analyze findings. You may not have all the tools, but the underlying principles remain the same. The more creative your approach, the better your research will be.