Successful customer and market research can provide the data you need to support specific business objectives, such as understanding requirements for a new market or a new product, fine-tuning your customer journey mapping, improving competitive market positioning, refining a customer facing process, analyzing your win/loss results, and measuring customer satisfaction.

With the proliferation of survey software, it can be tempting to jump into creating survey questions, aided in part by tips published on the software company's website. But successful research is so much more than wordsmithing the questions and choosing appropriate rating scales: It's a science that takes time and money. Your methodology and corresponding survey instruments/questionnaires must support the purpose of your research, along with any business, timing, and budget constraints.

Bad decisions made as a result of a flawed research process (purpose, questions, implementation, and results interpretation) can be extremely costly, and potentially fatal. Usually, only the very largest companies have research experts on their marketing team. If you don't have one, consider engaging an external expert to mitigate risk on this very strategic project.

Six Best-Practices to Guide Your Research

Based on our several decades of successfully implementing research initiatives and crafting research instruments, from questionnaires to discussion guides, here are six proven best-practices to help you design, field, and interpret your study.

1. Be clear about your purpose

Determine specifically what you want to learn, and understand what data you need to support the decision.

Here's an example:

  • To decide whether to pursue this market, we need to know_____________.
  • As a result of this research, we will be able to make the following business decisions(s) __________.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM