Back to Basics: Pick the right research method by thinking like you’re planning your wedding

April 22, 2021

Jack Miles
Senior Research Director

If you do basics exceptionally well, then you’re probably going to excel.

This applies to everything you do. Sports, studying, relationships, oh, and market research too.

Despite this we think the basics are a bore, AI, ML and VR are what we seem to adore.

But it’s the so-called ‘boring basics’ that really pay our bills. So this series is about appreciating and upcycling our basic and most important skills!

Deciding which research method to use is a vital decision. Wrong method = un-insightful outcomes. Right method = impactful insights.

So how do you make this vital decision? Easy. Use the same thinking you’d apply to planning your wedding day.

Remember who it’s about

Weddings are ‘all about the bride’. Choosing a research method is similar. Except there’s no bride. Instead, there’s a client.

And that’s who choosing a research method is about. Yes, it’s about ‘the brief’. But the brief’s author and owner matter more.

Why?

If you choose a method that meets the brief, you’ll please your client. But pleasing isn’t enough. To be valuable, your method must:

  1. Excite your client
  2. Make them confident that it’ll wow their stakeholders

Create criteria to castrate chaos

50 or 100 attendees? Church or barn? Size and location are the foundations for all other wedding planning decisions. Deciding which research method to use is similar.

Before you talk to your colleagues about which method to use, define the key criteria you’re working to.

Namely, what are the: timings? budget? business and insight objectives? Clarity on these points will ensure your client says ‘I do’ to your method.

Be remembered. Don’t recycle

You want you and your wedding guests to remember your big day, don’t you? I suspect so. Likewise, you want clients to remember your research method.

Luckily, making both a marriage ceremony and research method memorable is simple.

One wedding dress fits one bride. One cake pleases one couple. One method fits one client.

One size fits one. Not all.

You should never choose a method because it worked for another client before. Ever.

No individual wants to buy exactly the same things as everyone else. Whether it be in the context of wedding ceremonies or workshop design. That’s why tailoring your method to an individual client’s needs is critical.

Agree on disagreeing

Deciding on a research method and a seating plan have one certainty – disagreement. Family politics will often dictate how you prevent a pre-speech fracas. Methodological biases shape methodological preferences. In both cases, disagreement will occur.

OF COURSE, a quallie will say “this is definitely an exploratory brief”. Discerning data scientists will immediately reply with “numbers must inform this decision”.

Confirmation bias is when you search for information to support your own beliefs. And it’s as rife in researcher’s methodological decisions as it is consumer habits. Accept it exists, and remain focused on what the client needs. Not what you want.

Say ‘I don’t’

Engagements are about saying ‘yes’. Vows are about saying ‘I do’. But organising a wedding and strategy are about saying ‘I don’t’ and ‘no’.

Why?

You can’t have a brass band, live band, Michael Bublé impersonator and a DJ at your wedding reception. Likewise, you can’t have data mining, ethnography, conjoint and eye-tracking in your research method.

Don’t let your desire to try new approaches influence your decisions about which method to use.

Instead, your decision must focus on what’ll best meet your client’s needs. It’s all about the client, remember?

By respecting not reflecting convention

Weddings originated in 2350 BC. Core research methods are comparably new. Surveys were born in 1838 and focus groups in 1937. Thus, both weddings and research methods have established traditions.

Both weddings and research methods must respect their roots. After all, tradition provides security and credibility. Both good things.

But tradition isn’t everything. Time’s change. This means the tools you use to understand the world mustn’t rely on tradition. So, when choosing a research method respect – but not reflect – tradition by asking questions like:

  • Why force people to answer every question in a survey? Giving autonomy is engaging
  • Why define your sample by what the ‘average’ customer is? Often, in reality, nobody is ‘average’
  • Why should clients view – not take part – in focus groups? Face time with customers is vital to market orientation

Planning both weddings and deciding which research method to use are challenging. But the same thinking can help you succeed at both.

So, say ‘I do’ to putting the client first. Do this by working to key criteria, tailored approaches and reinvention. Conversely, leave methodological recycling and confirmation bias standing at the altar.

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