Fundamentals of Research: Goals and Objectives

Posted by Derek Jones on

The desire to do research usually starts with some sort of business problem that requires evidence to support a decision of going one way or another.

This post is part of a 10-part series that re-focuses on the fundamentals of market research. Derek Jones, founder of D&M Research, argues that these concepts are either not understood or are being overlooked by buyers or managers of market research, in favour of frugality and agility, leading to often erroneous decisions being made off the back of spurious data.

Join us as we guide you through everything from spending more time planning at base camp, to asking the right questions of the right people, to analysing and making sense of your data for the purposes of brilliant decision making. At the end of the series, you will be able to download the Research Playbook. Enjoy.

Although these problems are many and varied some common ones include:

  • Will our latest product innovation sell – does it have enough appeal to launch and who will buy it?
  • What should our next advertising campaign say to strike a chord with new and existing customers?
  • Why is our category slowing – what can we do to grow it again?
  • What are we losing brand share when other brands are growing?
  • Where should we reposition our brand?
  • How do we deliver a product or service offering that hits the mark in terms of what customers want?
  • Which of these three ad concepts is the best one to go with?
  • Where is there new opportunity in our category?
  • What is the health of our brand compared to our competitors?
  • How do we create a better value proposition?

You will know the problem because you are already thinking about research – but spend a few minutes defining what that problem is as clearly and simply as you can. It will help to set up your research and define your objectives. It will also help you sell the idea of doing research (which always requires some budget) with other stake holders.


What decisions will you make at the end of the research?

A really neat way to start thinking about setting up some objectives is to start thinking about the decisions you will make at the end of the research? After all research is all about evidence based decision making and if you can’t define or articulate the decisions you will make then you are not ready for research.

Spend some time writing these down as part of your overall research plan. Couch them in terms of a decision and be specific. It’s better to have a set of smaller decisions than a big hairy one that is vague.

Let’s think about one of the business problem scenarios above. A favourite one of mine is advertising testing and optimisation. Imagine your agency has pitched three new ideas to you for an upcoming TV ad. The agency has their favourite and you have yours which are different. The types of decisions you are typically faced with in this scenario are:

  • Which of these TV commercial (TVC) ideas should we approve for production?
  • Which one is going to connect and resonate with customers the best in order to increase propensity to buy our product?
  • Which one does the best job of delivering its intended message?
  • Which one does the best job of linking to our brand and which one fits our brand the best?
  • What if anything should we change in the best ad to make it even better?
  • Which is most memorable and has the least wear out factor?

You list of decisions could be less or more but you should try to capture all the decisions you might need to make at this stage and write them down. Review, refine and organise your decisions into a succinct list.


Translate this into an overall objective and supporting objectives

Now that you have got your decisions it’s time to translate them into research objectives. We find that having an overarching objective with a list supporting objectives is a very useful way of defining objectives. The objectives really are the decisions but translated into a language that research can address.

Again using the example above you may translate that into something like the following:

  • The overall objective of the research is to find the best advertising concept to take into production.
  • In order to meet this objective the following supporting objectives have been developed.

To identify:

  • Which TVC idea is the most likeable by those in the target market?
  • Which has the best linkage to our brand?
  • Which has the best fit to our brand?
  • What messages are being processed spontaneously by viewers of each TVC idea and are these positive, negative or neutral?
  • Are these messages consistent with the intended messaging of the TVC idea?
  • Which TVC idea has the least wear out over repeated exposures?
  • Which TVC idea has the greatest lift in propensity to consider or buy our brand?

Note this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of what an advertising research project would aim to achieve but gives a practical example of how you might translate decisions into research objectives.

A final word on goals and objectives

Your research plan which includes goals and objectives should be a living document and don’t be afraid to revisit and modify accordingly. It’s not unusual for business decisions and therefore goals and objectives to change over the course of the process. What’s important is to identify these and update your research plan, preferably before you leave base camp and start designing your questionnaire. Remember spending more time at base camp really pays off – you wouldn’t attempt to climb a mountain without some time planning your expedition before setting off!

Keep an eye out for the next instalment in this blog series which will cover the design and structure of your questionnaire!

Feeling overwhelmed? D&M Research is here to help you with any or all of these areas. We offer affordable consulting packages for survey preparation and analysis, all the way up to comprehensive full-service research solutions. Ensure your next research project is a brilliant success by giving us a call or email today.

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