Magazine article Marketing

Market Research: Low Budget, Big Results

Magazine article Marketing

Market Research: Low Budget, Big Results

Article excerpt

Spending a fortune on research is not the only way to get results. Louella Miles examines the small surveys that deliver valuable insights.

Big market research budgets tend to accompany big advertising budgets - but there is far more to the industry than that. There is also great demand - often from blue-chip firms - for smaller campaigns not linked to advertising. As Marketing's Research Awards showed last year, research with a budget below pounds 25,000 is good enough to challenge for the title of 'best campaign'.

Comet won the retail category with a campaign delivered within a budget of pounds 20,000, which was carried out in partnership with TNS. Its objective was to understand how committed customers were to the brand, what drove this commitment and specifically whether its new store format supported increased levels of commitment.

The results indicated that customer satisfaction was almost exclusively staff-related. This message was communicated across the business, from board to store management, enabling Comet to increase the efficiency of the business over the Christmas period and drive the long-term strategic agenda of the company simultaneously.

Phil Tysoe, Comet's general manager for commercial information, is quite clear about the limitations that cost can put on research. 'The principal one tends to be sample size,' he says. 'Or, if you spend big on sample size, you leave little budget for analytical insight. This makes strategy research harder.'

As a result, Tysoe believes these studies have a specific purpose. 'Single pieces of research should not be viewed as a panacea,' he explains. 'The responsibility on the client side is to review all the data available and to ensure that additional pieces of research seek to plug any gaps in your knowledge.'

One advantage of working to a small budget is that it can focus the mind - and from this pressure comes the creation of imaginative methodologies to get to the answer. 'Some ideas to save money include using cheaper approaches, such as telephone interviews as opposed to face-to-face,' says Kath Harris, joint head of qualitative research at RDSi in Leeds. 'The key is to sit down and consider what will meet the objectives without affecting the integrity of the findings.'

Some surveys can be completed very cheaply. 'One thing that really increases the cost of research is the need to include different types of target consumer - different genders, ages, regions and social grades,' adds Harris.

'If you are interested in a simple population, you can get great results from quite a small study.'

Compromising quality

The temptation is always there for clients to seek more cost-effective ways of finding answers - no bad thing in itself, unless the quality of the outcome suffers. BBC World, for example, determined through inexpensive online polling that its great strength against other news channels is that it is perceived to have integrity, to be more thought-provoking and serious than other news channels. It therefore introduced the positioning 'Demand a broader view', reinforcing the channel's approach to news. The ratings, however, remained static. While the online research had indicated that its greatest strength was the depth of its news, there was never any guarantee that this would motivate viewers. Instead, the news audience seemed to prefer the more user-friendly offerings from CNN.

At this stage the BBC called in Sanjay Nazerali, managing director of The Depot, to delve deeper. He conducted face-to-face interviews around the world and discovered that the BBC's 'strength' also entailed 'difficulty' - watching the channel was hard work. As a result the BBC's strategy has been changed radically. It wants not only to protect the channel's integrity, but also to make it easier for the viewer to tune in.

The BBC had hoped that its initial small investment would produce results, but ended up having to pay for more research. …

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