Did you know? Our thought processes, our strategies and how we use our B2B tools need to change.
I can't overemphasize the importance of writing good objectives for a successful research outcome. It is the cornerstone of tackling a research project. Here are some practical guidelines I've used over the years that might help you develop better objectives and, in turn, research proposals.
Define the right problem properly. Accurately defining the problem is the most important step in the entire marketing research process.If the wrong problem is defined or, it is not well articulated, ALL of the subsequent steps will fail to lead to sound, productive results.
Beyond "not knowing", there are two primary sources of defining a problem:
Management needs to be cautious in confusing the use of symptoms with problems. "We are losing money" is a symptom of a underlying marketing problem. The role of the symptom is to alert management that there is a gap between what should be happening compared to what is actually happening.
Good research objectives require solid background information that can often be found using secondary sources for: understanding markets, industries, competitors and the company. Assessments must be made on the quantity and quality (including timeliness and relevance) of existing information. The researcher must have a solid understanding of the managers unique situation: the particular business/marketing objectives involved and constraints under which the manager is operating.
Defining objectives, typically, works better when you are able to narrow the probable causes of the problem. Potential solutions are marketing actions that may ameliorate the underlying problem: changes in price, delivery, product enhancement, etc. Assumptions about the consequences of proposed solutions are hypotheses.
"What if" questions need to be explored for the consequences of each marketing action. An assumption that a manager believes to be true and wants research to determine if there is indeed support for, we call an assumption statement or hypothesis. Note: If a manager is 100% sure of assumptions, by definition, there is no need for research - rarely reality, but in some cases many managers believe they "know everything they need to know."
Articulating a good research objective requires that the quality and quantity of the information possessed be assessed against each hypothesis. Closing the gaps between the available and desired information serves as the basis for establishing research objectives.
Writing tight research objectives is a key part of developing an effective overall marketing research proposal. A good proposal: states the problem, specifies the research objectives, provides detail for the proposed methodology for closing the information gaps or answering questions. A research proposal also provides a defined timetable for actions and, of course, budget.
Note: The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has a very nice overview on formulating research objectives.