December 2008

How Do You Write a Research Brief?

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the second edition of ‘better insight' – the newsletter that's full of helpful tips and advice – all aimed at ensuring you get the most from your market research.

And, because we firmly believe research should be fun, each month we include a cartoon that illustrates our theme.

In this newsletter, we present Zippy Research, an agency that's in such a hurry to ‘process' clients, it doesn't bother about small things like briefs. A big mistake, in our view.

At Research Insight, we're nothing like Zippy Research. We don't just encourage you to give us a full brief – we also give you all the help you need to write one! Read on to find out more.

We're really interested to know what you think about this newsletter, and would love to hear your feedback. So if you have a moment, do write and tell us what we could do to make it even better.

Lastly, as Christmas edges closer, we'd like to send our warmest seasonal wishes to you, your colleagues, friends and family. Instead of sending Christmas cards, we've decided to spend the same amount through Oxfam Unwrapped providing a donkey, a bicycle, books, radios, seeds, farming tools, clean water and a few hundred school meals to the needy in developing countries! Check it out for yourself – it's the perfect Christmas gift, with something for everybody!

Happy reading…and Happy Christmas!

Martin Holliss
How Do You Write a Research Brief?

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!

Business Insight

A Research Insight client wanted to understand the opportunities for their product within the 10 largest European Union export markets. Their aim was to prioritise the market(s) they would enter.

While the client wanted a full assessment of all 10 markets, we quickly realised that their budget would only stretch to a full assessment of three markets.

So, having defined a set of clear and tightly focused objectives, we worked closely with the client to understand their actual/real need. This enabled us to propose a two-stage process.

First, we used a combination of desk/secondary research and telephone executive interviews to prioritise the attractiveness and potential of the market in each country.

Based on that research, we identified two markets with particularly high attractiveness and potential, and conducted a thorough assessment of each.

The outcome? The client was able to choose which market to enter. They spent less on research than they expected and got the information they needed. Without a clear brief and detailed realistic discussion of the options, such a clear outcome would not have been possible.


If you'd like to find out more about marketing research, including how to put together a brief, the Market Research site has a library of helpful articles for you to read.