Why is a brief so important? It's a bit like the foundation of a building – put in the spadework early on and your project is more likely to start on the right foot. Skimp on this critical early step, and your project is more likely to struggle.
So how do you write a brief that gets you off to a great start?
Begin with a short summary of your current situation, and define clearly what you already know. It's helpful if you also include details on how you think responsibility for the project should divide between you and your chosen research agency.
Next, set out your business objectives and research objectives.
For business objectives, what is your overall strategy and how does this research link into it? What will you do with the information you get – what action do you expect to take?
For research objectives, what issues and topics do you want to explore or discover? What problems do you need to solve? Defining clear business and research objectives will help your research agency design a well-focused study. Clear objectives will also help you to assess the quality and focus of your research agency's report.
Offer your suggestions about how the data might be collected. Of course, a reputable agency will give you plenty of guidance on this one. Unlike Zippy Research, a reputable agency will be interested in finding out what you think. For example, which research methodology (or methodologies) you think will best suit your project, and why; your view on the type of people whose views need to be understood; and what stimulus material you think the researchers should use to gain the richest possible insight.
Describe what you expect to get out of the project – the ‘deliverables'. You might just want advice on designing a survey, for example. Or perhaps you need statistically-robust data? Or maybe you'd like a full report complete with data, interpretation and clear recommendations to highlight decisions you should take. Whatever your expectations, be sure the agency clearly understands what you want.
Suggest a timetable. What is your deadline for receiving proposals? When will you commission the research, and what milestones (if any) do you have to meet? When do you need results? Your agency will let you know if the proposed timetable is too ambitious (or too generous!).
By the way, don't forget to ask your research agencies what help they can give you with putting together a brief. If the answer is ‘none' or ‘not much', the chances are they won't be much help during the later stages of your project either.
At Research Insight we are always happy to offer advice, because we want your project to be a success. If we ever stop providing impressive service, we should get out of market research and make widgets instead!