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  • Writer's pictureC.E.K. & Partners

Tips for Getting Started with Market Research

Market Research - The Basics

Managing a market research firm in Atlanta, I love the quote from Dan Zarelle:

“Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.”

I believe in the power and impact of data and data-driven marketing.

Choosing to partner with a market research firm for paid research studies offers one such pathway for gathering intelligence tailored to your organization’s specific needs. Market research should not be intimidating; it’s a tool that provide health care companies and B2B companies with the right data to make informed and smart decisions. Market research is an investment in your B2B brand and organization. It allows you to gain the necessary insights to make decisions — which sometimes might mean not offering a new product or not proceeding with certain initiatives. In comparison, an investment in market research is small compared to sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into the development and launch of a program.

A market research firm provides data to inform decisions at the brand level and on the product or service level.

Here are a few examples of questions market research can answer for health care oriented organizations:

1. What are the awareness levels, attitudes and preferences for our hospital system, practice or health care plan? How does that compare to our competitors?

2. Are our customers satisfied? Would patients recommend our hospital, practice or employee benefit plan?

3. Which is the strongest concept for a new product or patient experience?

4. How can we validate whether a refreshed website or digital experience (e.g., patient, emmber or physician portal) helps with simplifying the user experience? Can the user easily find information and complete necessary tasks? If not, what needs to be improved?

5. What content should be created that would be of the most interest to internal and/or external stakeholders?

6. What is our employee health care plan’s point of difference?

7. What do employees think about our company culture?

There are a multitude of qualitative and quantitative market research techniques. Qualitative research enables you to capture in-depth feelings, opinions and attitudes from participants. Quantitative research is based on achieving a statistically significant findings from from the identified group.

Here’s just a sample of four popular types of market research methods and their value to health care marketers and B2B companies:

1. Quantitative Surveys

Online surveys allow you to reach a broad customer or employee base or a select segment. These tools are designed to be quick, efficient and provide statistically significant data. Surveys are used in market research variety of reasons, with questions designed to capture the voice of your customers quickly and accurately. For example, you could ask customers why they chose your hospital system or health care plan or ask about their opinions of the experience and how it compares to your competitors.

While quantitative market research provides solid insights, the rich context of what people are thinking is best captured by survey findings into qualitative research. There are a variety of ways to do this with paid research studies:

2. Focus Groups - In Person or Online

In person or online, six to eight participants are screened and brought together for a guided discussion at a facility like those offered by Jackson Research that have a one-way mirror. A skilled moderator probes about subjects that require greater focus and explanation than offered with a survey.

An online focus group allows more flexibility to include sought-after participants who may not be able to travel to a physical facility. Additionally, online focus groups can be a bit larger, enabling you to extend the number of participants. These are moderated and paid studies as well. These are an increasingly popular way to keep people safe, as well as reach a customer base outside of markets with research facilities.

3. Online Bulletin Boards

With online bulletin boards your participants can log in at times and from locations that are convenient for them. This is great if you want to reach those with unusual work hours, such as night shifts, or an audience who is scheduled such as doctors, nurses, stay-at-home moms or others. The number of participants in your study can be even greater than online focus groups since it is typically managed over a period of days to week by a professional moderator from a market research firm.

4. One-on-one, In-depth Interviews

For those who would not attend a group session — such as a CEO or surgeon — scheduling a one-on-one in-depth interview increases the likelihood of participation by accommodating the individual’s unique schedule. This technique allows a moderator to go deeper with the conversation and therefore gain greater insights.

Getting Started

Here are four critical questions our market research firm in Atlanta asks in the early stages of planning.

1. What do you want to learn from the paid research study?

Any strategic initiative should be focused; the same is true with research. With a clear objective, you ensure the paid research captures information that will be actionable.

2. How will the data and insights impact decisions we make?

How you will use the data and insights captured? This ensures the questions asked are focused on getting answers that will meet your learning objectives and avoid nice-to-have tidbits.

3. Who will you invite to participate in the market research study?

Participants need to be carefully screened based on criteria. For example, do you want current or recent hospital patients or members of a health plan? Do you want participants who are lost customers or prospective customers — or a combination? What part of the country should participants be from — your city, region or state?

4. Will participants be from a research panel and/or your in-house list?

Do you have an existing list of stakeholders — current or lost health plan members or customers, for example? Or, will the study focus on the ideal member the health plan is looking to attract but who is not yet a customer? The latter requires tapping into a research panel.

Planning is the critical first step to designing your market research.

While paid research studies may be designed to inform brand and marketing initiatives, the data will reveal insights that will be valuable across the organization. It’s time to open your eyes.

This article first appeared April 24, 2018 in the AMA's Health Care newsletter:

About the Author | Carolyn Kopf

Carolyn Kopf is the founder and managing partner of C.E.K. & Partners, a branding, strategic communication and market research firm in Atlanta that helps health care oriented companies and B2B brands design custom research studies.

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