What is a market research template?
While you’re no doubt familiar with the concept of market research and how it can help you to reach your target audiences and improve your product or service, the real challenge is designing a market research plan that is conducive to excellent results.
All of this starts with the right market research template(s) to help you analyse specific target audiences, collect the right data and uncover insights that can drive actionable change.
In this article, we’re going to:
- talk about market research and its use cases,
- provide you with a standard template that allows you to plan your research,
- and share several other templates to help you with specific types of market research
But first, let’s revisit market research.
What is market research?
Market research is the process of determining the viability of a new service or product through surveys and questionnaires with prospects and/or customers. It involves gathering information about market needs and prospect/customer preferences.
Through market research, you can discover and/or refine your target market, get opinions and feedback on what you provide to them and uncover further prospect/customer pain points and expectations of your service or product.
Market research can be conducted in-house, either by you and your research team, or through a third-party company that specialises in it (they will typically have their own research panels or be capable of creating a research panel to suit your requirements).
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The four common types of market research
There are lots of different ways to conduct market research to collect customer data and feedback, test product concepts, and do brand research, but the four most common are:
The most commonly used form of market research, surveys are a form of qualitative research that asks respondents a series of open or closed-ended questions, delivered either as an on-screen questionnaire or email.
Surveys are incredibly popular because they’re cheap, easy to produce, and can capture data very quickly, leading to faster insights.
2. Focus groups
Why not bring together a carefully selected group of people in your target market using focus groups? Though more expensive and complex than surveys and interviews, focus groups can offer deeper insight into prospect and customer behaviour – from how users experience your products and services to what marketing messages really resonate with them.
Of course, as a market research method that’s reliant on a moderator to steer conversation, it can be subject to bias (as different moderators might have preferred questions or be more forceful) and if you cut corners (not asking all the necessary questions or making assumptions based on responses), the data could get skewed.
As if you were a fly-on-the-wall, the observation market research method can be incredibly powerful. Rather than interviewing or surveying users, you simply take notes while someone from your target market/target audience engages with your product. How are they using it? What are they struggling with? Do they look as though they have concerns?
Observing your target audience/target market in this fashion is a great alternative to the other more traditional methods on this list. It’s less expensive and far more natural as it isn’t guided by a moderator or a predefined set of questions. The only issue is that you can’t get feedback directly from the mouth of the user, so it’s worth combining this type of research with interviews, surveys, and/or focus groups.
Interviews allow for face-to-face discussions (both in-person and virtually), allowing for more natural conversations with participants.
For gleaning deeper insights (especially with non-verbal cues giving greater weight to opinions), there’s nothing better than face-to-face interviews. Any kind of interview will provide excellent information, helping you to better understand your prospects and target audience/target market.
Use cases for market research
When you want to understand your prospects and/or customers, but have no existing data to set a benchmark – or want to improve your products and services quickly – market research is often the go-to.
Market research (as mentioned above), helps you to discover how prospects and customers feel about your products and services, as well as what they would like to see.
But there are more use cases and benefits to market research than the above.
Reduce risk of product and business failure
With any new venture, there’s no guarantee that the new idea will be successful. As such, it’s up to you to establish the market’s appetite for your product or service. The easiest way to do this is through market research – you can understand the challenges prospects face and quickly identify where you can help. With the data from your market survey, you can then create a solution that addresses the needs and expectations of would-be customers.
Forecast future trends
Market research doesn’t just help you to understand the current market – it also helps you to forecast future needs. As you conduct your research and analyse the findings, you can identify trends – for example, how brands and businesses are adopting new technology to improve customer experiences or how sustainability is becoming a core focus for packaging. Whatever it is you’re looking to understand about the future of business in your market, comprehensive market research can help you to identify it.
Stay ahead of the competition
Understanding your market and what prospects and customers want from you will help to keep you ahead of the competition. The fact is that the top businesses frequently invest in market research to get an edge, and those that don’t tap into the insights of their audience are missing low-hanging fruit.
As well as helping you to stay in front, you can also use market research to identify gaps in the market, e.g. your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Just have participants answer questions about competitor products/services – or even use the products/services – and work out how you can refine your offerings to address these issues.
Plan more strategically
What’s the foundation of your business strategy? If it’s based on evidence, e.g. what people expect of your products and services, it’ll be much easier to deliver something that works. Rather than making assumptions about what you should do, market research gives you a clear, concrete understanding of what people want to see.
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How do you write a market research plan/template?
A market research plan is very similar to a brief in that it documents the most vital information and steps about your project. Consider it a blueprint that outlines your main objective (summary), key questions and outcomes, target audience and size, your timeline, budget, and other key variables.
Let’s talk about them in more detail.
Elements of a great market research plan
1. Overview or summary
Use the first section of your market research plan to outline the background to the problem that you are attempting to solve (this is usually your problem statement or problem question). Include background information on the study’s purpose and the business to provide context to those who would read the report, as well as the need for the research. Keep the overview simple and concise; focus on the most salient elements.
What is it that you hope to achieve with this survey? Your objectives are the most important part of the survey. Make sure to list 3-5 of the decisions or initiatives that the research will influence.
Understand the most-used channels for customer engagement and purchasing to decide where to prioritise marketing and sales budget in Q1 2022.
Determine what’s causing customer churn at the later stages of the buyer journey and implement a new retention and sales strategy to address it.
Your objectives should be smart, that is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
3. Deliverables (or outcomes)
This section should focus on what you expect to have at the end of the project. How many responses are you looking for? How will the data be presented? Who will the data be shared with? (Stakeholders, executives) What are your next steps? Make sure you state how you will collect and analyse the data once it’s available.
Products such as Qualtrics CoreXM make this process fast and incredibly easy to do, drastically reducing the time to insights so you can make more meaningful changes, faster.
4. Target audience
Not to be confused with your market research sample, your target audience represents who you want to research. Of course, your sample may include ideal buyers from your target audience. Here you want to define the main variables or factors of your audience: demographic, age, location, product interaction, experience, and so on. It’s worth building out your buyer personas (if you haven’t already) and including a quick breakdown of them here.
5. Sample plan
How many participants do you want to research and what kind of groups do you want to reach? Depending on these two variables, you may have to use qualitative, quantitative, or multi-method approaches.
6. Research methods
What methods will you use in your market research project? The insights (and the granularity of those insights) will depend on the methods and tools you choose. For example, and as mentioned earlier, surveys are often the go-to for many organizations as they’re affordable and straightforward, but if you want to get more personal views from your respondents, one-to-one interviews might be more applicable. You might even want to take a hands-off approach and simply observe participants as they use your products, or try a combination of research methods. Make sure to outline what methods you will use as part of your research plan.
How long will your research project run? It’s worth putting together a Gantt chart to highlight key milestones in the project, along with dependencies, and to break down tasks as much as possible. Schedule in contingency time in case some tasks or research runs over – or you need more responses.
Set a budget for the overall program and list it in your plan. Though this might be the most difficult aspect of any research plan, it helps you to be more strategic about tasks and hold people accountable at each stage of the process. If costs go over, that’s good to know for future market research. If costs are lower than anticipated, you then have the opportunity to do further research or prop up other areas of the study.
9. Ethical concerns or conflicts of interest
One of the most important parts of your market research plan, you should highlight any ethical concerns. To begin with, it’s your duty to state whether or not responses will be kept confidential and anonymous as part of the study. It’s also important to allow participants to remain anonymous and ensure you protect their privacy at all times.
Another issue to consider is stereotyping. Any analysis of real populations needs to make approximations and place individuals into groups, but if conducted irresponsibly, stereotyping can lead to undesirable results.
Lastly, conflicts of interest – it may be that researchers have interests in the outcome of the project that lead to a personal advantage that might compromise the integrity of your market research project. You should clearly state in your market research report that any potential conflicts of interest are highlighted and addressed before continuing.
But I want a faster solution!
Well, there’s a quicker and far easier way to do all of the above and get the data you need – just use a market research survey template. In our next section, we’re going to share a whole list of templates that you can use.
Free market research survey templates
No matter what kind of research you want to conduct, we have templates that will remove the complexity of the task and empower you to get more from your data. Below we’ve compiled a list of templates for four key experience areas: Brand, Customer, Employee, and Product.
All of our research templates are free. All you need to do is sign up for a free Qualtrics account to access them.
Brand experience market research templates:
- Logo testing: Collect feedback to help you evaluate and iterate on your logo designs and concepts
- Brand awareness: Track the level of brand awareness in your target market, including current and potential future customers
- Ad testing: Evaluate your consumers’ reaction to an advertisement so you know which campaigns to deploy before you invest
- A/B testing: Quickly and easily compare to versions or options in a study, whether it’s a design, headline, colour palette or a mock-up of your latest ad campaign
Customer experience market research templates
- Student satisfaction: Gather feedback on how your institution is delivering on the student experience
- Net promoter score (NPS): Measure customer loyalty and understand how they feel about your product or service using one of the world’s best-recognised metrics
- Customer satisfaction: Evaluate how satisfied your customers are with your company, including the products and services you provide, and how they are treated when they buy from you
- Customer service: Gain insights into the contact center experience, so you can achieve and maintain optimum levels of customer experience (CX) performance
- Event feedback: Measure the effectiveness of your events and how well they meet attendee expectations so that you can continuously improve your offering
- IT help desk: Understand how satisfied your employees and customers are with your IT help desk experience
- Website suggestion box: Collect visitor feedback on how your website can be improved
- Website satisfaction: Find out how satisfied visitors are with your website’s design, usability, and performance
- Store purchase feedback: Capture customer experience data at the point of purchase to help you improve the in-store experience
- Online purchase feedback: Find out how well your online shopping experience performs against customer needs and expectations
Employee experience market research templates
- Employee satisfaction: Get an overview of your current employee experience
- Manager feedback: Improve your skills as a leader with valuable feedback from your team
- Employee engagement: Find out how employees find the current experience at your workplace with this entry-level engagement survey
- Employee exit interview: Understand why your employees are leaving and how they’ll speak about your company once they’re gone with this survey template
- Employee onboarding: Improve your onboarding program by understanding what’s working and what’s not
- Team event planning: Collect inputs from employees to plan a team event that works for everyone
- Meeting feedback: Check-in with team members after a meeting to see how well your company is running and what improvements can be made
- Interview feedback: Improve your candidate experience by gathering actionable insights about the interview process
- Employee suggestion box: Gather anonymous data to help address concerns and improve the employee experience in your organisation
- Candidate experience: Improve your candidate experience to increase brand perception, offer acceptance rates, and hiring process efficiency with this single-touchpoint survey template
- Employee suggestion action: Take employee feedback a step further by working with your staff to quantify solutions based on their experience data
Product experience market research templates
- Product research: Evaluate your consumers’ reaction to a new product or product feature across every stage of the product development journey
- Pricing: Understand how to set the exact price point for your product or service, according to your target consumers
- Feature prioritisation: Compare and contrast product features using conjoint analysis to find the optimal mix for your customers
- Product package testing: Collect feedback on your product packaging to see how well it meets the needs and expectations of your customers
Armed with the right market research templates, getting the information you need across brand, product, customer and employee disciplines — as well as beyond — is significantly easier.