Any organization, from large businesses to small to non-profits to public institutions, can benefit from developing insights into how well they are doing in meeting the public’s needs, how they are perceived by outsiders and how well they’re performing against their objectives. Quantitative research is how these businesses typically perform the gathering of the information they need to develop meaningful, actionable insights. At its heart, quantitative marketing involves systematically amassing and analyzing measureable and objective data, with findings leading the way toward specific actions and plans.
Set expectations, establish audiences
Typically, research is undertaken through surveys and questionnaires. They are created once the desired outcome has been established. The outcome should consist of what the organization is hoping to learn or issues it expects to be able address as a result of the findings. For example, objectives might be to improve brand awareness or to understand why market share is eroding and how to win back customer loyalty. For many companies, the outcome would be to boost purchase consideration for products and services.
Establishing the desired outcome also involves understanding which audiences are going to be targeted. The larger the base, the clearer the findings and the more representative they are of your ultimate market. Are they going to be your customers or representative audiences that fit your customer profile?
From there, the research instrument is designed, with questions that are designed to elicit answers as objectively as possible and with enough specificity to yield meaningful data. Questions are usually close-ended, with respondents picking answers from a specific selection without qualifications. It is important to run the questions by multiple critical thinkers before formally launching the research. This assures that questions are clear and won’t be misinterpreted.
In addition to outcomes expected, another guiding factor to the design of the research instrument will be the methodology used. Some options, like online and self-completed mailed surveys can more easily accommodate longer, more detailed questions than others. Among the options:
- Internet services like SurveyMonkey and Constant Contact can set up online surveys, offering audience members that fit your demographic, or using your own customer list.
- Face-to-face interviewing of people on the street or in their homes is also an option, but it is important to stay with the script or questionnaire for consistency purposes.
- Telephone interviewing can be a quick and comparatively inexpensive way to collect data, but it can be challenging to get people to take the calls.
- Postal, self-completed surveys are another option, but can stretch out the timeline for the project because of typical delays in audience participation and collecting data.
- Omnibus surveys can also be attractive, where a handful of questions can be added to a general survey that’s directed to large groups of targeted consumers. It is a recommended way of tapping into an existing consumer panel to gain insights.
Interpreting the data
When it comes to research, the real payoff comes with the findings of the research, what it says and how it sheds light on the issues and concerns that led to it being conducted to begin with. This requires the data to be carefully collated and analyzed. In this step of the process, a keen eye must be used to examine the responses and identify and remove outliers and errors, such as participants who didn’t read the questions correctly, that could skew and compromise the quality of the findings.
Finally, the findings are extrapolated and data is examined to understand responses by different audience groups for their implications. It is essential to weigh the analysis against the objectives and pull out the most meaningful associations. The more insightful and actionable the findings, the better off the organization. If clarity is not apparent in your results, then redesigning the project may be in order.
Successful organizations understand the importance of consistency in monitoring the pulse of their customers. Whether it comes via formal surveys through the mail, an online survey or a feedback card provided with the receipt at the cash register, research efforts help gauge ongoing sentiments and responses to new and changing initiatives. Quantitative research can offer valuable guideposts for future business and marketing direction.