Market Research Consultancy: Research Process
The Latimer Appleby Eight Stage Process
We recognise that every client is different and, at the same time, every project is unique, so that even a repeat exercise will have its differences because of the time of year or the particular circumstances in which that project is carried out. For this reason we approach every single project afresh since it is, of course, in one way or another, new.
We do, however, use our own process for the management and control of every piece of work that we do. This is our 8-stage process. This process has been developed through extensive and hands-on project management experience over many years and is now used on all Latimer Appleby research projects.
Each stage or step in the process is tracked through our own milestone system which means we can at any point inform our clients precisely where we are on any particular project.
Stage 1. Brief
- What prompted your need for market research?
- What do you hope to achieve from the research project?
- How do you envisage using the research findings?
- Will the research findings be applied within your organisation, externally or both?
- Have you ever commissioned any similar research?
- What are the timescales you are working within?
- Do you have a budget within which you would like to work?
- How will you measure the success of the research project?
Stage 2. Plan
From the receipt of the brief in either written or verbal form, we will use this as the principal input for our formal proposal document. With some clients who are familiar with our approach we may provide a shortened version of the proposal but, in the majority of cases, we provide a full written, costed and timed proposal. This seeks to play back the brief as we understand it to be, whilst ensuring that all parties are clear about both the overall approach we will take and, more importantly, the deliverables. We will not at this stage produce detailed questionnaires in the case of quantitative research nor detailed discussion guides in the case of qualitative research. This particular stage is about scoping and ensuring clarity of purpose, timeframes and budget or more simply what we are going to do.
Stage 3. Design
After stage 2, a critical milestone is the agreement to proceed. This triggers the design stage. This is where we get into the finer detail using the outline from the project plan or the proposal document. We see the design stage as being iterative and we may well seek additional input from the client to refine the detail.
The design stage will confirm resource requirements and, at this stage, we will get into the detail of the precise wording of questionnaires or focus group recruitment criteria.
Stage 4. Logistics
At this point we move into a ‘doing phase’ prior to the commencement of fieldwork. In the case of a face to face quantitative research project working with our team of highly experienced regional supervisors we allocate the project to specific individuals who are the most appropriate for the tasks in hand. Detailed research briefing packs will be collated along with the clear instructions for conducting the research itself. At this stage so much of the emphasis will be about clear lines of communications between all parties as we move toward the critical fieldwork stage. Key questions are who, what, when and where?
Stage 5. Fieldwork
Many would view the real research taking place at this stage, but we are already five stages into the project by this time. In the case of a face to face quantitative research, either an individual or a team of researchers, typically headed by a team leader, engage with respondents to invite them either to attend a focus group or to complete a survey. We may have quite specific criteria for potential focus group attendees or alternatively certain key exclusions. There may well also be very specific procedures to follow for a quantitative survey. Throughout this stage the team will be monitored by their regional supervisor to ensure that the project remains on track. Where circumstances may arise which could impact on the project itself, for instance extreme weather conditions or external incidents beyond our control, we will adjust our plans to remedy these situations. This fieldwork stage will also include focus group moderation or depth interviewing in the case of either type of qualitative research.
Stage 6. Analyse
With the fieldwork complete we move through the data received milestone and on to the data processing milestone. Here we take the raw findings and process them in order to deliver a set of research findings. The data processing may well involve additional steps such as geographic mapping, the calculation of project averages for comparison to a series of benchmarks, as well as cross tabulations. We verify all data received and, in the case of our survey work, since we are able to identify which researcher has collected every item of data, we are clear about the data’s provenance. Respondent details are also collected to allow for check backs. This is all about analysis and synthesis.
Stage 7. Report
This stage involves not only reporting but also interpretation. We use our own report style which we feel is most suitable for each project. Report styles do, however, vary and, where we need to reflect a client’s house style, we will follow those guidelines. We produce report documents that can be branded with our clients’ own logos and we can provide either Latimer Appleby branded or unbranded reports. What is critical to us, however, is that we produce actionable findings, and the report should seek to clarify exactly what these actions will be. Since we do not offer other marketing services e.g. advertising, promotion, PR or design, we can take a highly objective view on every client’s situation and will give appropriate recommendations.
Some clients do not require a research report and on those occasions we will typically provide a full dataset in CSV or MS Excel format along with relevant crosstabs.
Stage 8. Communicate
The final stage is one of both communicating and learning. Whilst not all clients require a formal face to face presentation we will typically use the report output and adapt this for presentation purposes. The exact format can be agreed in advance, however, it is typical that we produce an MS PowerPoint document that can be readily shared within the client organisation.
Although we note that the time available for formal face to face presentations is limited we feel that there is much to be gained from this stage since it is often the best opportunity for us to help turn facts and data to really powerful insights for our clients.