Don’t get your brief in a twist: here’s how to do research right

How to do research right

TSR Insight and The Student Room hosted their second masterclass at this year’s YMS, the world’s leading youth marketing festival.

We promised to take those hesitant to carry out market research, or less than happy with previous research results, on a journey, with the aims of:

  • Empowering marketers feel confident to write a market research brief
  • Sharing tips to find the right research agency
  • Delivering the know-how to commission and manage a research project

Quite a lot to do in two hours, but we were more than up to the challenge.

Why market research is essential for all marketers

Working in market research for over twenty years, 50/50 client and agency-side, means I’ve experienced both sides of the briefing process. I have written a lot of my own briefs, taken a lot of verbal briefs from clients and written the brief for them, and responded to formal briefs with proposals.

Many people know they need more market research and useful insight to inform their marketing strategy, campaigns or content plans but when research isn’t something you do every day it can feel like a mountain to climb. And to continue that metaphor, if you do it without a good map or the best tools, the view might not be as good when you reach the top!

Game on

We started the session with a game of spot the stats. We shared cards with interesting insights about the youth market and The Student Room and asked the group to match up statements with the right percentages or data, then they had to speed date to make a pair.

That got us talking and moving around, but also delivered some really useful insights about The Student Room’s audience and how young people think and feel.

All that jargon

We helped the room understand some of the essential terminology used in market research, including ‘insight’. Insight is everywhere, especially in my world… I’m an Insight Director, working for TSR Insight and everything we do is insight-led. But often this isn’t explained, and insight can be used interchangeably with market research.

Market research is one of the things that fuels insight, but insight doesn’t only come from market research.

Insight is about those thoughts that sometimes get lost, the ones that can start as a hypothesis to test or as that one niggly question you can’t get out of your head. Or when you’ve completed a huge report, that one sentence you would tell your boss to sum it up.

Insight doesn’t have to be formal. It often comes from a patchwork of sources that together form a clear picture that helps you to make decisions and take action.

Steps to gathering the right insight

Then we moved into key takeaways and took the room through a simple list which outlined step-by-step what needs to be included in an effective research brief.

If you’re interested in finding out more, please let me know and I’ll share our secrets to designing and delivering a successful research project.

The perfect partner

It is critical to get into your research agencies head, so that they are crystal clear about why you need the research, what you want it to inform and who the internal audience is.

We highlighted the importance of the target audience and the key questions to ask, whilst emphasising that there are no wrong or right answers, and there’s no such thing as too much detail.

A good agency will sift and interpret what you’ve asked for and present back to you an approach and methodology that will deliver the insight you need.

We introduced our attendees to the Market Research Society Buyers’ Guide. I’ve been using this since it was only in print, and it was introduced to me as the bible of where to search for the right agency for a project. You can search by key factors such as industry and audience type and the guide provides a list of agencies for you to consider.

Your burning questions

To consolidate what the audience had learned, we asked the audience for their ‘burning research questions’ and chose two to workshop. We interviewed the person who had submitted the question and went through each part of the brief. Sometimes what they said was ‘brief ready’ and other times we asked other questions and re-presented it, showing how it would be most useful when communicating with research agencies.

We thoroughly enjoyed hearing more about Zest Theatre and discussing challenges around inspiring young people to spend their money on theatre and retaining them as theatre goers in the future.

We also workshopped a really interesting example for Microsoft and thoroughly enjoyed discussing challenges for a range of other brands and education providers after the session.

It is always lovely to get positive feedback, one attendee said that it had been the highlight of their two days.

It was again a pleasure to be part of YMS and to hear that some came this year because our session last year was so useful.

We’ll be taking a version of this session to other conferences, so if you think this would be useful for you internally at your organisation or at a conference, do get in touch. Or if you have a burning research question about young people and students, or their influences and their influencers, we at TSR Insight can help.

Julie Vincent
Insight Director, TSR Insight