The market research process consists of six discrete stages or steps. They are as follows:
- Step 1 - Articulate the research problem and objectives
- Step 2 - Develop the overall research plan
- Step 3 - Collect the data or information
- Step 4 - Analyze the data or information
- Step 5 - Present or disseminate the findings
- Step 6 - Use the findings to make the decision
In the market research process, the fifth step is: Present or Disseminate the Findings.
There are a number of questions that a market researcher should ask before writing a report or creating a presentation to share research findings. And these questions should be asked and answered every time there are outcomes to report or disseminate. Many of these questions are the same considerations that speakers automatically apply to their oral communications when they are in a face-to-face situation. The main difference is that instead of being able to actually see the recipients of the research findings communication, the market researcher has to imagine the recipient.
- Know your audience. When the research findings will be presented in written form, the concept of audience is a bit sketchier than it will be if the research outcomes will be presented to a live audience. If the audience is live, then the market researcher will want to know in advance who will be in attendance at the presentation. A sign of a customization is relating the research findings to the purposes people would have for accessing the findings. In other words, typically the market researcher must obliquely tell the audience why they are going to find the research findings relevant to their work and interests. The other parts of customization are a bit softer. For instance, the vocabulary should be easy on the listeners' ears and brain. Unless the audience is only going to contain technological experts, the market researcher should eschew highly technical jargon. Most audience members will only remember three things that you reported.
- Make salient that which is significant. Place the main reasons for the research at the top. If there is a policy problem or a practice context that the research is addressing, put this at the very top. Don't make the listener wait for the end of the presentation or cause the reader to skip to the bottom of the report to find out what is significant. This does not mean that the methodology and theoretical grounding not important. It only means that these are typically of lesser interest to most consumers of market research. Rest assured, if someone is a methods hound or a theory debater, they will find what they are looking for in the report or the presentation and ask you about it.
- Ensure that recommendations are actionable. Clearly highlight any policy recommendations or practice recommendations. Report readers and presentation attendees do not want to do this work. They rely on the market researcher to know what the findings indicate and how these outcomes can be transformed into actionable insights. The bottom line for most external and internal consumers of market research is a demonstration that the findings are evidence-based or sufficiently robust to support business decision-making. When recommendations include the expenditure of additional resources, explicitly point to the way those resources would be used.
- Measure twice, cut once. This old carpenter's adage applies to broadcast time as well as board feet. It is important to practice the presentation of the research findings, whether the presentation will be a formal structured affair or whether it will be an informal discussion during a meeting. Know what you have to say, and know how long it will take to say it. Then speed it up and low it down. Account for the impacts of different audiences and identify ahead of time what you will cut-should the need arise-and how you will fill enhance the presentation if people are interested in hearing more MORE than they are interested in ending the meeting and getting back to their real work.
- Optimize visual data display. Think like an advertiser. When a market researcher makes data available to internal and external clients, the goal is make the presentation as clear and attractive as possible. Data can be beautiful. A list of links to resources and examples is provided below. Try your hand at infographics. Ensure data tables are readable from 10 feet away from the screen, not just 10 feet away from the podium. Use Google Docs to share your data tables so that those who want a closer look can hone in on the data.
- Pull back on the reins when it comes to creating PowerPoint slides. Much of the appeal of PowerPoint is to the slide creator. There is something decidedly appealing about seeing one's own thinking detailed in lovely fonts, headed by attractive bullets, and tied together with an edgy slide deck theme. Its like having your drawings from first grade on the classroom bulletin board. Everyone can see your brilliance, and if they like one slide, you have many others to show them. Only, don't. PowerPoint slides should be like movie slug lines. They make you want to know more, but you still have to watch the movie. No paragraphs of text allowed. Use the PowerPoint notes section to write the details, then create the slides from those notes. Try to be stunningly cogent and entirely brief on the actual slides. If you must make slides, share them privately on SlideShare.
A Few Resources to Try When Sharing Research Findings
Prezi. A new way to build presentation slides.
Information Is Beautiful. Teh website of David McCandless, known as a data journalist.
Got that report hammered out and that presentation ready to roll? Now its time to move on to Step 6. Use the Findings to Make a Business Decision.