Fitter, Leaner Research (Greater Insight 2009)

Making your research budget stretch further in a recession is easier said than done, but by following a few simple tips, you can make your investment work harder and even enhance the insights gained.

We all know the saying ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. Well, the same is true in getting the best from your insight – numerous small savings add up. Also, by following some simple rules you’ll find that your insight will be fitter, leaner and better directed. Let’s look at some areas where savings can be made.

Before spending any money, email work colleagues to make sure nothing similar has been recently undertaken. It’s not uncommon in companies for similar projects to be commissioned by different departments unbeknown to each other. To overcome this we have set-up client research libraries where a simple word search facility can find relevant material and avoid duplication of effort.
Consider whether data you already hold could be interrogated further to provide the required information. For example, amongst other things, analytics can be used on sales and customer data to build predictive models and segment customer types.
If you have an agency roster, halve it and give twice as much work to each agency. Fewer agencies doing more work will enable them to gain deeper knowledge of your company and markets. It will save time at briefing meetings, lead to more insightful results, and also give you the opportunity to negotiate retrospective discounts based on agreed spending levels.

Rather than giving the project go-ahead over the ‘phone, invite the agency to a meeting; use it to make sure your research is as focused as possible. Discuss potential outcomes, how they might help and to ensure that you squeeze every ounce of worth from the project.

Review the proposed methodology with a critical eye. Would telephone interviews do rather than face-to-face? Could the number of focus groups be halved if, for example, assumptions were made about the effects of limiting the locations sampled? Test these assumptions with a few telephone depths rather than convening full groups to cover every variable. Look for creative methodologies to provide the required information. At McCallum Layton we’ve developed a hybrid qual/quant methodology which runs simultaneously using the same sample; this can lead to substantial savings.

Keep questions focused and tightly worded – stick to the ‘must knows’; eliminate the ‘nice to knows’. Cutting 1 minute from a 5 minute telephone interview can save around 15% (unfortunately not 20% because of set-up costs). Also, do you really need 1,000 interviews when, in most cases, 400 is the optimum sample size. Maybe you could run a biannual tracking survey instead of quarterly one.
Look at your sample structure – the more complex the greater the cost. Do you really need a quota of left-handed grey haired grannies in Kent? Often, it’s easier and cheaper to let numbers fall out naturally and apply weightings to the final data.
If commissioning focus groups, consider whether it’s essential that you attend accompanied by numerous colleagues. Travel and accommodation expenses can be horrendous and nowadays you can view the groups on-line or download a video to your office the next day.

When it comes to the final report, just how detailed does it need to be? Naturally, a 2-3 page summary report of key issues will cost a lot less than a detailed report running to many pages. Instead of hard copies use on-line methods to circulate findings and recommendations; McCallum Layton’s Hub enables clients to log into their own secure area on our server and access a ‘library’ containing virtually everything to do with their project from questionnaire design to data tables. There is even a tool that enables clients to further analyse their data and design their own charts.

The above are just a few pointers, there are many more but unfortunately space constraints prevent me from detailing any more. However, I will end with a few last words of advice; don’t confuse stretching your budget with purchasing cheap research, if you look for cheap research that’s exactly what you’ll get.