One complaint about research is that it provides data, not information. This is a valid complaint, which can be cured by having a clear objective for how you will use the findings from your research instrument.
For data to become useful information, you need to know what to ask, who to ask and how to ask.
We use the phrase "actionable data" to describe information derived from our surveys or focus groups that can guide decision-making, product design or marketing materials.
• You face a business decision about expanding a brand. Ask existing customers whether they are interested and, if so, in what features. You may find little interest in the new product or interest in a feature set you hadn't thought of as important.
• You are investing millions in advertising and want to know whether your words resonate with your customers. Focus group comments may persuade you to modify your advertising images and select different wording that conveys your meaning in ways your customers will understand.
Research done for its own sake has a value. But to make it truly valuable requires having a clear objective and a disciplined approach to identify who to talk to, where you talk to them and what you ask about.
Research is an irreplaceable part of effective marketing strategy. Research can enhance your confidence in what you know if it is based on the most appropriate survey methodology, relies on a representative sample and frames questions that fetch the answers you need to know.