With the economy improving and businesses continuing to feel optimistic about the future, increasingly we are seeing new clients approaching us who are considering conducting market research for the first time – whether to better understand their customers’ needs, improve their service, develop a new product or service, or test a new marketing campaign to ensure that it will resonate with the target audience.

A consequence of this is that we are being asked more and more to provide a template that clients who are new to research can use to write a formal market research brief.

And here’s where I reveal a little secret – ‘I like nice tight briefs’. Market research briefs of course – not budgie smugglers.

Market research briefs

So what makes a good brief? Below is a summary of what we like to see:

About your business – It’s always good to get a bit of background on your business, especially if we are less likely to have heard of you (please don’t be offended). Tell us what you think it would be useful to know – perhaps who you are, what you do, where you are based, where you operate, and where you are trying to get to. Obviously we will do our own research, but it’s great to get your perspective on this.

Research context – Ideally we like to understand the background details. Tell us your story and what has triggered you to consider conducting market research.  It doesn’t need to go into great depth. A nice succinct couple of paragraphs is great, but feel free to share more with us if you see the need to.

Research objectives – Clearly it’s important that we understand your research objectives. Some clients differentiate between business and research objectives. Others clearly highlight the primary research objective, and then list more specific objectives to be met. You may decide to prepare a list of questions that you are looking for answers to. All of the above works. Just be succinct and let us know what you what you are ultimately looking to achieve and how you are looking to use the results.

Scope of the research – This relates to which markets we need to cover. If UK only, do we need to include Northern Ireland. If international, which countries? This is particularly important where there are language considerations, as we need to account for translation fees, which do add to the overall cost of the research.

Target audience – Let us know who we need to target for the research. Is it customers, prospects or both? Is it staff or other key stakeholders? And who specifically? Is it all consumers, or just females, or maybe people from a particular socio-demographic group? And if it’s businesses, what level of seniority and / or roles, and do we need to engage with multiple contacts within the business (e.g. the authoriser / decision maker and the person who deals with things on a day-to-day basis). You also need to share details of any particular segments you need to target, whether regional, by level of sales, or based on a particular segmentation model you might have adopted for your business.

Availability of contacts – Do you have a database of contacts available that we can approach regarding the research. If so, does this include the appropriate named contact that we would need to engage with, and do we have a telephone number and / or email address for this contact. If not, do you need us to source the relevant contacts for the research?

Number of contacts – It’s also useful to have a sense of the number of contacts available. So if you wish to undertake a customer survey, how many customers do you have, and how does this break down by segment? And if you are keen to target prospects but don’t have any contacts, do you know your approximate market share?

Methodology preferences – Do you have any thoughts or preferences in terms of what would you like to do? Are there people in the business who are keen to get closer to the process – perhaps attend a focus group and get so see the whites of their customers’ eyes and find out exactly how they feel. All useful to know.

Timescales – Let us know what timeframes and deadlines you are working to. And try to be realistic. We can normally complete most research projects in 2-3 months, but anything less than a month can be pushing it.

Budget – Sometimes clients are reluctant to share their budget with us, and for new clients this is more difficult as they don’t truly know how much our work actually costs. But more often than not it’s useful to have a rough guideline so we can then advise on what is achievable and recommend the most cost effective solution.

So that’s it in a nutshell. It doesn’t have to be ‘War and Peace’. Just 2-3 sides of A4 are usually enough (remember nice tight briefs). And we will happily sign any non-disclosure agreements if you are sharing anything sensitive with us.

I only hope you haven’t got any particular images fixed in your head now! Do feel free to contact me for any further advice. And also feel free to send us your brief once you have written it.

Happy brief writing