Four Questions that will Dramatically Improve Your Market Research

Becky Morehouse

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Perhaps nothing impacts your ability to use research to guide your marketing decisions more than asking four important questions as you consider a study.  

The first question is the “what?”  

The “what” is the big question you are trying to answer. In most cases, this comes directly from the rationale or motivation for the study and provides essential focus. If you can’t clearly articulate the “what” then you should consider delaying the study.  

Sample “what” questions might include:  

  • What causes enrolled students to withdraw?  
  • What motivates donors to give?  
  • What programs are of most interest to adult students? 

The second question is the “who?”

 In other words, who has the answer to the question you are trying to answer. While the “what” question may provide general direction on the “who,” greater clarity and more specificity is often needed.  

In the above examples I mentioned enrolled students, donors, and adult students. In all cases, more detail is essential.  

  • What is the demographic profile of students who withdraw?  
  • Are these prospective donors, current donors, or lapsed donors?  
  • Are we looking at all adult students or are we looking at adult students who live within a certain distance of the college or who have already completed college coursework?  

A clear understanding of “who” provides important guidance in understanding the size of the population to be studied and its composition. 

The third question is “how?” 

This question focuses on how your audience is best reached. A study of business leaders, for example, likely means the research methodology will likely involve in-depth, one-on-one interviews. A study of prospective students, however, can often be accomplished by a web study. 

The fourth, and final, question is “How are we going to use this data?”  

This question is similar to the first “what,” but focuses more on specific application. If you do not consider this question when designing the study, there is a distinct chance your ability to use the data in a meaningful way will be compromised.  

This question also helps guide the overall timing and appropriateness of a study. For example, it might not be wise to ask prospective students to evaluate your website after it has been launched or to ask adult students to list majors of interest if you are not able to make any changes.   

Interestingly, this question is one of the biggest reasons why colleges often seek outside assistance from firms like Stamats to help with their market research studies. Not only do we have range of ideas on how to apply the research, but we also help clients prioritize how the data is operationalized. In this manner, clients receive the maximum value for their research dollar and help open minds and budgets to the idea of additional research.  

Want to learn more? Schedule a free consultation today.

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