Back to Basics: The Five Stages of a Market Research Project

As Michael Jordan once said, "get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise" and we're going to do just that. As a tribute to the greatest basketball player of all time (we know exactly what we just said) we're going back to Market Research 101 with the five(ish) stages of a market research project. 

Stage 1: Project Initiation Meeting
We're going to go out on a limb here and say it's pretty obvious what the main focus of this stage is. The project initiation meeting does just that, initiates the project. During this meeting, you'll: 

  • Meet your project team
  • Solidify the goals and objectives of your study
  • Iron out details and plan next steps

Stage 2: Design and Development
Regardless of your preferred research methodology, every study has a design and development stage. This includes: 

  • Designing the survey instrument, moderator's guidebook, or participant screener, depending on the the chosen methodology
  • Everything is designed in close collaboration between the research firm (that's us) and the client (that's you)
  • Editing and revising of the instrument until the client is completely satisfied

Stage 3: Data Collection
It's fielding time and the hunt to collect and capture data is on. Depending on the project, this could involve one or more of the following: 

  • Digital surveys are sent to respondent's inboxes or posted on a website
  • Telephone surveys are collected via our in-house call center
  • Focus groups and in-depth interviews are conducted with participants from the target audience

Stage 4: Data Analysis and Compilation
This stage can really be summarized by two words: cleaning and coding. During this stage, data is prepared and analyzed for inclusion in the final report. This usually involves: 

  • Cleaning the dataset to remove any inaccuracies and incomplete responses
  • Coding and quantifying all open-ended survey responses
  • Verbatim transcriptions of focus groups and in-depth interviews
  • Running cross tabulations that are relevant or have been requested by the client

Stage 5: Reporting
This is what you're really paying for (besides, you know, having the entire project handled). The report is a compilation of all the data collected throughout a study and usually involves a presentation of results. These reports typically feature:

  • A project and respondent overview
  • Question by question analysis
  • Datapoint highlights
  • Overarching themes, opportunities, and gaps to be addressed through considerations (defined as recommended next steps to take action based on data supported insights)
  • Raw data set via Excel/SPSS file, frequency tables, and verbatim open-ended responses

With a majority of research firms, that's where the project ends. With some research firms (hint, hint) the relationship extends far beyond that with further presentations and additional data analysis, as requested.