Article by Patrick Fiorenza, RMS Director of Research Analytics –

One of the things that I love about market research is that it provides the opportunity to use many methods. Qualitative techniques like focus groups, in-depth interviews, observations, or intercept work. Or quantitative data like surveys or accessing secondary data resources. Then within the analysis, there are many statistical options to explore. We didn’t even talk about sampling and design methodologies. The complexity and the options can be both overwhelming and exciting.

However, the key to a successful market research project rests in a lot of upfront work to ensure quality information comes from the study. Early conversations for any market research project should focus less on a method and more on the purpose. Also, sometimes doing additional analysis or a deeper reflection can help unravel the real issue. For example:

A surgery center is struggling with employee retention. The organization is seeing high turnover and patient satisfaction is suffering because of staffing issues. Leadership believes that the problem is due to a turbulent market, and they believe the issue is driven by external factors. The organization decides they want to solve the problem of employee retention and ask the question: why don’t our employees stay? However, when they start to look at the data, they notice that the turnover is highest among staff who have been with the company for less than a year, and exit interviews point to a lack of employees feeling as though they weren’t provided adequate training. Now, management has a more focused problem to solve (onboarding and training) and asks a better question (how can we improve training/onboarding to improve retention?).

In this scenario, there is nothing wrong with the approach of trying to tackle employee retention – it is a major problem for the organization – but by looking at existing data and asking a more nuanced question, a clear problem emerges to solve. This approach sometimes comes naturally and in pre-planning meetings or survey design discussions and the right questions emerge. However, sometimes it’s a real challenge to understand the real issue.

Here are three suggestions to consider when starting your market research work. Don’t think about methods, data collection activities, or the nuts and bolts of how a study will be run. Think more strategically, and you might want to try this quick exercise.

  • Question 1: What Problem Do I Need to Solve?
  • Question 2: What can I realistically accomplish from engaging in a market research project?
  • Question 3: What are the top 3 insights I want to learn?

Once these questions are well understood, you can start to align your questions to the research method (qualitative or quantitative) and analysis procedures. But focusing on these three questions will make sure you are on a path toward success with your next research project.

Taking some time to assure you’re asking the right questions is an important first step in a market research study. With vague or ill-defined purpose, the quality of the results and your ability to act on the recommendations will be in jeopardy. Take the time to ensure you’re asking the right question, aligned with a clear purpose, to set yourself up for success with your next market research project.

Relational RMS Blogs:

How to Design Your Next Feasibility Study
How Market Research Supports Your Grant Writing Initiatives
Recruiting the Right Participants for Your Focus Groups: Best Practices

About the Author – Patrick Fiorenza

Patrick brings years of market research experience to the RMS Research Analytics team. His preliminary focus encompasses designing, implementing, gathering, and analyzing results from proven research methods created to obtain credible data to help guide decision-making across a variety of industries.

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About RMS

Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) is a full-service market research firm in Central New York. Formed in 2002, RMS helps organizations that are looking to know more about their customers and/or potential customers. They conduct surveys, focus groups, mystery shopping, studies and analysis. Each project is customized and gets personal attention by the best in the business. RMS has a reputation for getting results and offers an independent means to conduct telephone, on-line and mail surveying, In-depth interviews, intercept interviews, and participant recruitment as well as focus group hosting through QualiSight, its onsite call center and focus group facility. Taking advantage of the region’s reputation for being a great market study barometer, RMS recruits and moderates for focus groups, community forums and town meetings.