|  Strategy

Research is fundamental to planning, creating and delivering the optimal strategy for your client, whatever their goals might be. Katie Westwood has the details on why it's so important.

We’ve been banging the primary research drum pretty hard at RKH for a while now.

We’re special fans of qualitative research; whether it’s 1-2-1s or focus groups, there’s no better way to intelligently inform strategies that cater to the people’s needs, barriers and drivers than going out there and speaking to them ourselves. It helps us to drill into the ‘why’s’ of customer behaviour and gives us the rich insights that we need to do our best work.

There are five key things we consider before beginning the research phase of any strategy project, and we’re going to go through them here.

Define the end goal

Keeping the end game top of mind keeps your focus sharp.

We’ve found that it helps to ask yourself repeatedly “why are we really doing this?” Digging deeper into the real reasons for asking the research questions helps us define boundaries for listening and ensures we get exactly what we need.

The ‘ACID’ test helps here - are you asking for:

Affirmation, Confidence in an idea, true Insight, or Decision making?

Once we’re clear on the objectives, the most important thing is that we’re asking the right people the right questions…

Identify the right people

It’s crucial to identify who the target audience really is.

This may sound obvious, but this can be one of the most woolly parts of a brief. Once we’ve defined the truly relevant people to speak to, a participant screener helps to nail down whether an individual falls into that category.

Depending on the brief, we might look for participants to meet the following criteria:

  • Do they fit into the right social demographic criteria?
  • Do they have any conflict of interest with the research topic/brand/ company?
  • Will they engage openly and honestly with a moderator, and/or members of a focus group?
  • Will they be comfortable sharing opinions? Not vanish into the crowd if it’s a group discussion

Recruit them

So, we know who we want to speak to, now we just have to find them - this is probably the most challenging part of a research project. We value our specialist recruitment partners who help with this bit; heir advice and guidance is essential - from feasibility to timings and budgets, they’re the experts.

Post-its pinned to a board.

Work out the right questions

We’ve got some aims, we’ve recruited the right people, now it’s time to figure out what we’re asking them.

We carefully craft discussion guides whilst leaving space for the conversation to develop naturally. We always need a clear and consistent list of questions to:

  • Cover compliance; Participants need to be fully briefed on recordings, confidentiality and anonymity so they know what we’re planning on doing with the information they share with us.
  • Ensure consistency; although qualitative research is discursive, and it’s fine to let conversations naturally develop, the same set of themes/topics need to be covered with each quota for consistency in analysis and reporting.
  • Maintain objectivity; it’s important to avoid leading or closed questions – we need honest answers to understand the full picture, even if those are negative.
A group of people in discussion.

Moderate correctly

Good moderating is the difference between open conversations resulting in rich insights and a stilted back-and-forth with lots of single word answers. We know how important it is to understand our audience - we read the room and always do what we can to make participants feel comfortable and at ease, allowing the conversation to flow and develop naturally, pulling back to the discussion guide when necessary.

It’s important to avoid jargon, and use simple language. Use of unexplained acronyms and unnecessary jargon will put participants on edge, raise questions and can feel patronising. Be encouraging, but unbiased - nodding along and giving positive reinforcement is good, but this needs to remain unbiased to allow alternative opinions to come through.

For focus groups, it’s crucial to understand and manage the group - gently encourage any quieter participants, direct questions at others if louder members are taking over.

All our research is guided by the best practice guidelines from the Market Research Society. The MRS is the foundation of good research, with clearly set out professional standards for research practitioners. As trained and accredited members, it’s our responsibility to uphold these standards across the agency. Does that make us strategy squares? Probably.

Katie Westwood

Looking for strategy specialists?

That's us. Get in touch with us to see how we can help you dig deeper into what your audience wants.

Click here to drop us a line.

Katie Westwood