The Greek heroes didn’t have it easy. Neither do market researchers. And the more I think about it, the hero’s quest strongly resonates with the research question. A single sentence that conveys what you need to do. The difference perhaps is that the quest isn’t dawned upon you by an oracle, but by your own curiosity, interest, and need to find utility. And just as the prize of the hero’s quest already waits for him, the answers to your quest are already out there. But you just have to ask the right questions.

Snapback to reality, In the modern world, market research is not just the most potent, proven, and practical method to answer critically important business questions. It is the only way to find reliable answers. There isn’t room for guesswork and gut feelings. And without market research, the series of unfortunate events wouldn’t be a work of fiction. It would be the story of our lives.

Before you decide on your research question, priming your team and thoughts in a meaningful way is as important.

Asking meaningful questions

Let’s assume you asked a good question about the data. You might not find anything interesting. But that still helps you ask the right questions in the future. Any useful question, whether interesting or not, gives you more confidence in the problem territory and focuses your interest helping you ask better questions.

Building confidence

It might be painful to accept findings that contradict our intuition. Wasted plans and actions can be a harder pill to swallow. But this missed step is fertile ground to help build trust between your stakeholders and the data. It makes it easier for them to accept information from you in the future. Especially when it is counterintuitive to preconceived beliefs and biases.

Brainstorming

Asking the right questions about your data would involve brainstorming with a cross-functional group of stakeholders. This way you can get all of them to buy-in at the same time during the decision-making stages.

Finding your research question

A unique question that offers both interest and utility to business won’t come to you in an aha moment or by intuition. At the same time, knowing when your intuition is right is just as important as knowing when it’s wrong.

When you ask a research question you’re probably trying to figure out one or more of the following:

  1. a course of action to take,
  2. the reason behind something happening, 
  3. or something else that is of pressing importance

And if you find no surprises after your research, your intuition was not very far away from the facts after all. In any case, evaluating the hypotheses with data will let you know beyond doubt if the venture is worth the energy, effort, and time. And knowing when you’re right is just as important as knowing when you’re not. Testing your hypothesis only guarantees if you should maintain or change the course. The steps:

  1. Identify your question: You need a place to start. Counter it with other questions. A good research question is one that will help short-term success and stability as well as long-term survival and growth.
  2. Refine by finding background information: Issues surrounding the primary question need to be vetted and taken into consideration. For instance, if your primary research question is: Who is currently buying your products and services? Your secondary questions would be: What motivates them? And which channels do they use?
  3. Refine by narrowing down: Once you’ve fixed your research question, you narrow it down by asking the five Ws and one H. Who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Getting your research question right is all great but the real acid test is in comparing consumer preferences and predictions with real-world outcomes like sales performance. Companies spend a massive amount of time and dollars on market research. You get to ask customers to rate anything – product appeal, uniqueness, purchase intent, predictions, and so on. But a successful question is one that is scientific, accurate, and useful.

The most ambitious product launches not only explore new research questions and methodologies. They also engage their customers’ passion and expertise. The best questions are those you ask of the customers who have used your product or service. In the design and testing of the products and services, growth is most sustainable when the customers come first. And that’s a conclusion you can bank on.