Planning Market Research for the Coming Year

John Cashmore
October 1, 2009
COLUMN : Dealer Perspectives | Sales & Marketing

It is now planning time for many fenestration companies. Most successful firms do annual planning for the entire company.  Many of these firms typically include marketing planning or research and development fiscal planning for new products in this process.  But few companies actually do market research planning.

Yes, they may have a lump sum ready to be used for the annual customer satisfaction study.  Others may realize they other regular needs, and put a line item in the budget, but actual planning of market research is limited.

Here are a few suggestions to help in companies in their annual market research planning, and getting the most for their money in these efforts:

  • Make market research a separate line item from the marketing budget.
  • The person in charge of market research should meet with various department heads to determine their proposed activities for the coming year and beyond if possible. Ask them to assist in determining their market research needs and share their thoughts in how to go about getting deliverables to satisfy those needs. This is also a good time to see when their needs will occur.
  • Don’t just allocate a lump sum or set percentage of money for market research activities.
  • Look for opportunities to combine market research needs. For example, two different company divisions may need to do research with the same audience.  This can often be done using the same quantitative or qualitative exercise with the costs split between divisions.
  • Seek out omnibus studies already conducted yearly within the industry and see if the authors are open to adding a few of your company's questions for a much lower fee than conducting a complete, custom research project.
  • If you work with outside market research vendors, have conversations with them after your internal conversations to help nail down the ranges of costs and types of studies most appropriate for the tasks which you propose to undertake. Maybe you think focus groups, but individual interviews might get you there faster and cheaper.
  • Go to industry trade shows and seek out non-competitive market researchers from other firms with whom you can exchange ideas.
  • Go to market research industry events and learn about new techniques to make your deliverables to your in-company clients more meaningful, and in many cases less expensive. And don’t assume online is the least expensive, best method.
  • Run your market research budget/plan like a business. As your deliverables become more embraced by key management, future positive budgets will be easier to obtain. Show your stripes. No company fires their best sales driver.

In times like these, the market research budget is often one of the first to be cut. New products are invented and introduced with little more than an inner-office "focus group" session, and the decision that “if the president likes it, it will sell.”

Some door, window and component producers will spend anywhere from $30,000 to $7 million on dies, drawings, changes to production facilities, advertising, e-promotions and more without first testing the waters on new or reinvigorated products or the repositioning of a brand. In other industries, those kinds of investments simply wouldn't happen without advance market research.

Specifically planning for market research activities can prevent the waste of precious funds.  It can also reduce last-minute “hurry and rush” projects that end up falling short of their goals. More importantly, market research can drive sales and growth. Plan accordingly and your company’s sales success will follow.

 

John Cashmore is president of Market Resource Associates, a supplier of market research services to the window, door and building products industries. Questions and comments from readers are welcome at john.cashmore@mraonline.com.