The Importance of Doing Research

We don’t have time in the schedule. We don’t have the budget to do research. We already know what the target wants. There are a lot of reasons not to do research, sure, and they all have merit, at least some of the time. But doing research doesn’t have to be a formal process or consume a lot of resources—and the benefit it provides can be immeasurable.

Published: 10.27.2010

A recent project dramatically brought this home for me. We were creating a major new website for a new client, who was reaching out to a brand new target. It was an audience we know fairly well, and we were confident we knew what the focus of the website should be and what functionality was needed as well as what content the target would respond to. We had limited time and a tight budget, as almost everyone does. But we made the decision to dedicate a small percentage of the budget to conducting some informal focus groups.

We developed a recruiting plan and developed a series of questions we wanted to ask, and located potential participants through some basic industry research. We offered them a small incentive for participating and brought them in for a series of three focus groups—one in Cincinnati and two in New York over the course of a week. It didn’t take a lot of time, and what we found out not only surprised us, but also paid off in a big way.

It turned out what we believed would have tremendous value for our target was something they’re already getting elsewhere from sources they like and trust. Further, they told us our client’s credibility in that area was somewhat limited…but that the client has tremendous credibility in another area that our target really wants to tap into, and that became the focus of our site content.

We had an idea for a specific interactive piece on the site, one our client really liked. It would take a relatively large percentage of our budget, but if it worked, we believed it would be worth it. Instead, the focus groups told us it was not only something they wouldn’t use, but were actively opposed to. Some even told us it would make them reconsider whether to complete the call to action on the site. We were able to redirect project resources and enhance a key piece of functionality—something that will ultimately increase the value for our client as well as for their target audience.

The ultimate deliverable delights both the client and the target audience, and is well on the way to achieving our client’s business objectives. Would it have had the same impact if we’d skipped the research and forged ahead with what we thought we knew? Definitely not. And the end result provided dramatically greater value to our client and the target.

Have you had a similar experience in research, or do you have a different perspective? Tell us about it!


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