7 steps to conduct research successfully

It’s always good to learn new things and keep an eye on the future of market research, but let’s not forget about taking the best steps to conduct research correctly today. That includes talking to the right groups of consumers, using the right technology, and knowing how to reach respondents wherever they are. In all, there are seven steps to follow.

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This article discusses the seven steps to conduct research that every project should include. The seven steps are based on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” with Carol Haney, head of research and data scientist at Qualtrics, a Voxpopme partner.


1. Understand the scope of the research

The first of the seven steps to conducting research is to be clear about what we plan on doing.

“Make sure the shoe fits. Don’t make the shoe too big or too little,” said Carol. “Make sure you ask the questions you need to be answered, but don’t throw the kitchen sink at the respondents.”

To achieve that, Carol said, she writes the report she wants to see ahead of time, a concept explained in the article “Stop Writing Surveys and Start Designing a Fake Report.” It helps her set the scope.

"I write out what that report should tell me. And then that's my hypothesis."

That doesn’t mean everything is set in stone. Carol said to define the scope:

  • Come up with that hypothesis
  • Run it by others
  • Collaborate
  • Update
  • Move forward

“I say ‘poke holes in it,’ and I’ll take it back and revise it,” Carol said. “Once you have that, you can reverse engineer it into your entire survey design. That way, you know you are not asking too much or too little.”

The key components for writing concepts

Writing concepts is a helpful piece of this step in the process. Voxpopme Vice President of Research Brian Monschein says these components should be included.

“There are different thoughts on writing concepts, and I’m talking through a framework that I’ve used in my past, and that has proven successful for getting good results,” Brian said on “BRIght Ideas.” “Keep in mind that a good concept will bring the product and the experience to life, and it allows the consumer to connect with the product in a meaningful way.”

Guidelines to follow for concepts:

  • Keep it consistent – that makes comparison easier
  • Make sure the concept is clear and easy to understand
  • Include visuals if they connect to the issue

“Typically, a concept is one-page, a picture maybe, some pricing and sizing information, and that’s it,” Brian said.

Use a clear and unique name for your concept

Put the name at the top and decide whether it should be branded or not. There are advantages to being branded or not being branded. Brian said that adding the brand name can identify it clearly to the consumer, but it could also bias the consumer.

Have a good headline

“This should be your hook,” Brian said.


First, you’ll want to highlight a problem that this product will solve for you.

This is really that consumer tension that will set up the next section, which highlights the product features and benefits. (1)

Product benefits

Then, get into the product’s benefits to the consumer and why a consumer would buy the product.

“I think of this in the emotional and rational sense,” Brian said. “So you are trying to connect with the heart and the mind.”

Rational benefits are what the consumer gets from a product. Emotional benefits are what they feel.

“Try to layer in the emotional benefits as that creates empathy and draws them in more,” he said.

Reason To Believe (RTB)

Brian said that without being too technical, describe how this product can deliver on its promise.

“Examples of RTBs could be compelling product features, endorsements, or even product claims,” he said. “And then you can finish with price information, sizing, if you have a catchy tag line – add that in.”

2. Understand the target audience precisely

This is who you are trying to hear from. So, for example, if you want to find out if people who work out prefer to exercise at home or the gym, it makes only sense to talk to people who work out.

"Really try to understand who your target audience is. It's not just about you."

Given that the report and results will be shared with other stakeholders, ensure everyone agrees on the target audience.

“Go and interview those stakeholders and find out who they want to hear from,” said Carol.

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Then write your screening questions so they can’t be gamed, Carol said.

“You are getting at the person you want to talk to, but you are not leading them down the path that they know who that is,” she said. “Don’t allow your respondents to do what we call ‘satisfyzing.’ Allow them to thoroughly and authentically give good answers.”

Of course, writing good screening questions can be a challenge. Voxpopme Vice President of Marketing Jenn Vogel gave the example of:

Do you own a jet ski?

  • Yes
  • No

“You will get a lot of ‘yeses’ if people think that’s how they can get into the survey,” she said.

Carol suggested that the question can be reworded with jet-skiing being one answer to a broader question.

What activities do you do in the summer?

  • Swimming
  • Outdoor exercising
  • Hiking
  • Picnicking
  • Jet-skiing

“Then you get your target audience – the people that do jet-ski,” Carol said.

Understand the consumers’ why

Understanding your target audience also includes understanding their why. Not your why, but theirs. Why are they even interested in your product? Simon Sinek, of course, has shared the message that companies must know their own why. Why are we in business? And he indeed has built quite the following around that message.

But author and marketing expert Mark Schaefer said it should be about the customers’ why instead.

“Consumers really care most about their why,” Mark said on “Reel Talk.” “They care about the arc of their story and they want to know how you can come alongside them at their point of need. And help them have a happier life.”
Understanding this also helps us identify the right audience for our research.

3. Develop the right strategy for the particular research

This includes considering:

  • the time you have
  • budget available
  • the impact you are trying to make

Sometimes that could be qual, sometimes it could be quant and other times it could be a combination. So, for example, in the consumer studies – like this one about clean food labels – that we publish on our Market Research Blog – we combine quant and qual.


Carol gave the example of doing 50 video interviews for a study.

When you do interviews online, you see them in their bedrooms, you see them manage five children plus trying to do the conversation. You see all the things going on in our lives.

Seeing and understanding people’s surroundings all become part of understanding them. And we can see the potential disconnect between their body language and what they say.

Segmentation study

In another scenario – let’s say a segmentation study – Carol wouldn’t recommend doing in-depth interviews via video as one of the steps to conduct research. Instead, she said a quant survey of a larger group would make more sense here.

“I would do that with over 1,000 people,” she said. “I want to understand across my whole customer base. Who are those segments, and how do they differ? Where do they overlap and differ, and how can we reach them?”

Understanding the timing

We’ve discussed the increased demand for speed plenty of times on our Market Research Blog. And with that, it’s essential to understand when stakeholders need results from a study.

“If you don’t have a lot of time, you can’t do 50 IDIs,” Carol said. “It’s just impossible. So you are going to have to switch things up.”

4. Finalize the strategy

After all these steps have been worked through, we must finalize the strategy. That includes going back to stakeholders, sharing the strategy’s final draft, and making sure everyone is aligned.

“This is what we are thinking, and these are why,” Carol said. “These are the target audiences; this is how we’ll get to them. And socialize all of this information.”

Steps to conduct research "We forget to do these things because we are in such a hurry to get to the information."

She said that we need to make sure that we are going down the right path and that path is evidence-based.

5. Perform the research

One of the steps to conduct research successfully is to do what we said we would do in our strategy and do it well and in a meaningful way to the business. Perform the research study.

6. Do a disaster check

Doing a check-in to see if things are on track is another one of the steps to conduct research. That includes:

  • Write an early report
  • Look at the open-ends that people are submitting. “If you are doing qualitative work – watch the videos,” Carol said. “Are your questions being answered? Will you be able to produce that report?”
  • Are you reaching the right respondents?
  • Do respondents interpret the question the way you meant it?

7. Evaluate how well the research worked

The final step of the research process is to look at whether the research worked. Did it get us the insights from the right audience in the right time frame?

“You’ve scoped out the research, here’s the decision we are looking to make as a business and now it’s a doublecheck,” Jenn said. “Did we achieve what we were trying to achieve?”

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