The Goal: Answering the big questions

This post is written by Debbie Watkins, SBI Resident Adviser for the bKash project in Bangladesh. This is part of her ongoing series on “The Goal.”

Many organisations will use the services of an expert market research company when they need to find out “what people want” (and this is generally a better way than sending out in-house staff who think your proposed product is wonderful – refer to my previous article). The organisation tends to give a vague description of some questions they would like to be asked, then hands over a lot of money and waits for the results. The results, when they come back, will be represented in pie charts, bar charts and scatter diagrams in a range of colours. The organisation listens to the presentation and then goes ahead with what they were planning to do in the first place.

Photo credit: Audience Response Info

Sound familiar? And if so, how do you avoid it and get useful data that enables you to make informed decisions?

Rule number 1: Be totally, totally clear on what the big questions are you want answering. These could be something like: “what price should we charge our client?”; “where should we put our first 5/20/100 agents?”; “which products should we be offering and to whom?”

Rule number 2: Subdivide each big question into a series of small questions. The smaller questions should combine to give you a very clear answer to each big question.

Rule number 3: Ensure that the small questions include ones which allow for the answers to the big questions to be NOT what you want to hear. You’re not trying to make a case for your product here – you are ensuring that you don’t go out there and spend a lot of money launching something that no-one wants.

Rule number 4: Be very specific in determining who you want to survey – this includes by geography, socio economic class, occupation, age… and this should be as broad as possible. One thing you’re trying to find out from the research is who needs your product – if only 25-35 year olds in the city get asked the questions, you’re not going to have an accurate picture of the likely uptake of your offering to a broader market.

Rule number 5: When briefing your research company, make sure that they are aware that coming back with “negative” answers is not a failure on their part. I have seen a number of cases where researchers slant the questions or the way the questions are asked – or even make up the data – to produce a result that they think will make the client happy. Only output which doesn’t give you clear answers to the big questions in step 1 (one way or the other) can be viewed as a failure. Research that doesn’t give you the conclusions you hoped for has not “failed”: in fact, quite the opposite!

Next in this series:  Lessons learned from previous ADC implementations worldwide.


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