Over the years I have often heard marketing research suppliers tell me that their clients are rarely prepared for a briefing on their social marketing research study. This leads to poor results and worst wasting social marketing dollars. As a result I am posting a section of my Social Marketing Workbook (designed to provide users with an end-to-end planning tool that lays the groundwork for a successful social marketing program. For more information on the workbook go to http://cepsm.ca/products/social-marketing-planning-workbook/) on how to brief a marketing research supplier (external or internal).
I hope you find it useful.
Research is a key element for every component of the social marketing process. In many instances it is usually contracted out to a marketing research company. However in some cases the research is done internally. In any case, to get the information you want from the research you are conducting it is critical that you prepare a Marketing Research Brief.
Writing a Marketing Research Brief is an essential first step in any market research exercise. It will help those doing the research develop a relevant and appropriate research study. The very act of writing a brief enables the social marketer to prioritize the objectives and planned outcomes of the research. The more time spent planning the research, the better the outcomes may be.
Ultimately, preparing a Marketing Research Brief helps you clarify your objectives and prioritize what you want from the research. The brief helps the researcher come up with the most appropriate research solution, and to give you the best “bang” for your research budget.
The starting point of any good brief is always the social marketing objectives. Collaborating with relevant organizations and/or partners involved in the campaign at the outset will save time by ensuring all key objectives are included in the brief. The more focused the objectives, the more focused the result! An overview of the key relevant issues to the project and details of recent studies provide valuable background information. Indeed, one of the most useful pieces of background information is accurate information on the size and structure of the target audience.
Social marketing objectives should be summarized separately from research objectives.
You may have a preferred methodology, or if you are working with a contractor it is important that they provide you with several alternative options costed in their proposal (for example, alternative options of conducting focus groups and in-depth interviews).
The time required to conduct research is largely driven by the scale of the exercise (e.g. number of interviews) and type of data collection (e.g. face-to-face interviews will take longer than online surveys). Hard-to-reach audiences will have a much greater impact on the length of time required to conduct interviews. If the research needs to be conducted within a limited time frame, or if there is a key reporting date to be met, including this information upfront will have a significant impact on the type and scale of research methodology. Interim results can always be presented against a series of key milestones.
Marketing Research Brief Guide
Always start the process with a review of secondary research. During this process information gaps will undoubtedly be uncovered or identified. It is helpful to have an overall research and evaluation plan. This is usually developed as one part of your overall social marketing strategy. You will need to decide if you need to start off with quantitative or qualitative research to find out what might motivate your audience to change their behaviour.
Your brief provides a context for the researcher. They need to know where the research fits within your overall social marketing strategy. It is really helpful for the researcher to know why you wish to undertake the research and how it will be used. If previous research has been undertaken provide information about what has been completed to date. If there are any particular political imperatives it may be helpful to let the researcher know as well.
A great Marketing Research Brief possesses clarity, displays depth of thought, and most importantly, provides direction.
The following headings are the areas you should cover in your brief.
1. Background: (Short overview of the social marketing campaign and how the research you will be conducting will support the campaign)
2. Social marketing objectives: Outline here the overall objectives of your social marketing strategy (i.e. what you wish to achieve with your target group(s)). Include knowledge, belief and behaviour objectives.
3. Research objectives: Specify exactly what it is that you want to achieve from this research. Try to be as specific as you can.
4. Research audience: You should have a general idea of whom you are trying to reach (i.e. who are your target segments). You should outline what target group or groups you want to find out more about. Be as specific as you can. Indicate your priorities in case there is not enough budget to cover all groups.
You can define your target group(s) demographically, geographically or attitudinally (psychographics).
5. Information on target audiences: It is important that you let the researcher know of any information about your target group that you already have available. It may be from previous research that you have commissioned or from another source or it may come from the analysis of secondary research analysis you conducted. This will help the researcher identify the information gaps.
6. Checklist of key discoveries you are hoping to find out from the research. Please check the appropriate boxes below.
Check off those that are relevant to your study:
To better understand current behaviour, knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and values of target audiences.
Knowledge gaps (i.e. facts that could motivate the target audience to change attitudes and behaviour). For example, benefits of the proposed behaviour and what tools they can access to help them with behaviour change.
Better understanding of competing barriers and benefits? For example, barriers that discourage target audiences from adopting the desired behaviour and how you can help the target audience overcome barriers to behaviour change
Which target segment(s) is most ready, willing and able to change their behaviour? For example, which segments are more likely to respond to a social marketing campaign “best”? (Low-hanging fruit)
What the target audience believes are the most efficient marketing communications tactics/channels that can be used to get the social marketing message across to them.
Place (i.e. where and when the target market performs the desired behaviour).
Pricing issues particularly non-monetary costs:
Loss of pleasures
Working with Research Contractors
The researcher would usually make a recommendation on what methodology is most appropriate to meet your marketing research needs. However you may already have an idea of the sort of information you are after (e.g. qualitative rather than quantitative). If so let them know. Remember also to ask the researcher to provide the rationale for their recommended methodology.
Timelines, milestones and deliverables
Outline critical deadlines that you expect the researcher to meet. Deadlines might include: research proposal received, draft questionnaire completed, field work begun and/or completed, top-line results reported, final report received and presented. Be realistic. You are more likely to get good work if you have reasonable expectations in terms of timing. Along with your timings be specific about your milestones. Some people are happy just to leave the researcher alone until they have a final report to deliver; others prefer to be part of (and approve) every step of the process. Making this clear from the outset will ensure a productive relationship.
Be clear about deliverables. Do you want the researcher to do a verbal presentation of the research report? How many copies of key documents do you want? Do you want them to include all the tables in the report or just summarize the key results? Do you need an easy-to-read version of the final report to put on your website?
It is helpful to let the researcher know what kind of budget you have available as this affects what sort of research design is feasible.
Marketing research selection criteria
If your research is going to be contracted out to more than one company (i.e. it is a competitive bidding situation) it is good form to give everyone an idea of when and how you want their proposal to be presented, what criteria their proposals will be judged on, and when the decision will be made.
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