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Articles from GKS Consulting for thought leaders in nonprofit organizations, education and service-based businesses.

Goldilocks and the three research approaches
October 10, 2017

Once upon a time (because that’s how most good stories begin), there was a girl (we’ll call her Goldie) who was curious. Her search for truth led her to ask questions which led to intelligence which turned into insight. Along the way, her instincts got better and better but she always recognized that instincts were based on past experience and that situations changed.

One day Goldie was working with a client who wanted to increase its market share (don’t they all?). As she began to consider the best approaches, she had lots of questions. Who was the client’s traditional buyers? What other brands did these buyers consider alongside the client’s? Why and how did they make their choices? What creative messages would be compelling? (You get the idea.) The client answered based on their past experience and personal preferences but really couldn’t speak for their customers. After all, they weren’t particularly objective about their answers.

So, Goldie set out to find ways to get answers.

She looked at the Big Research Option. The team could do a combination of qualitative and quantitative research to develop insights and test those insights with members of the determined target audience. She dreamt about all they would learn and the confidence they would have that their decisions on behalf of the client would be well informed and effective.

While everyone appreciated this best practice approach and truly hoped the client would support it, Goldie also put together a Mid-Sized Research Plan. Based on the client’s experience and some sound secondary research, the team thought they could eliminate the quantitative research and do a series of focus groups that enabled both the team and the client to “meet” actual audience members and hear them talk about the brand.

Having made the case for Big Research Option and Mid-Sized Research Plan, Goldie and the team needed to take one more look at their needs. At the very least, what insight was absolutely critical to doing a good job for the client, developing a sound strategic approach and putting forward effective creative work? This Just Right Research Option – fewer audience groups or individual interviews, conversations with sales people, or perhaps an online panel discussion – would generate that insight.

The moral of the story: While best practice research plans are, by definition, the best way to go, we don’t always have that opportunity. Consultants should identify their core questions and minimum insight needs. After all, it is true that some insight is better than no insight at all.