What I Wish I Knew Before Running My First Marketing Research Project

If you’re new to marketing research, you might be asking, “What exactly does that mean?” The answer is simple: Marketing research projects are a way for businesses to better understand their customers. 

For example, an internet service provider (ISP) may conduct research to determine how much customers pay for their current internet plans, what additional services they’re interested in, and how many people still don’t use the internet!

As a product manager at a small startup, I’ve run my fair share of marketing research projects. Unfortunately, it took me quite some time to learn the ins and outs of the process. 

If you’re new to running marketing research projects yourself or just want some tips on how to get more out of your next study, this article is for you.

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Affiliate Marketing
Understand the research process thoroughly.
Plan and structure your research project meticulously.
Consider the significance of diverse respondent groups.
Implement effective data collection and analysis methods.
Address potential challenges and roadblocks proactively.
Leverage insights from experienced researchers and marketers.
Continuously adapt strategies based on research outcomes.
Embrace a learning mindset to refine future research endeavors.

Do The Research. Don’t Take Shortcuts And Make Assumptions

By now, you’re probably beginning to realize that running a marketing research project is not as simple as it may seem. If you want to be successful, there are some things that must be done right.

Let’s start with the most important lesson of all: Do NOT trust what you think you know!

You may have heard something or read something somewhere and assumed it was true, but we need to get back to the basics here getting reliable information is crucial for producing accurate results. 

You can’t take shortcuts and assume ‘any old thing’ will do; if you want people who are representative of your target audience and actively involved in their communities if you want unbiased results don’t take any more chances than necessary!

When embarking on your first marketing research project, it’s essential to understand the process. Our detailed guide on conducting market research in 14 easy steps can help you navigate the journey effectively.

Use A Professional Service, Even If Your Budget Is Tight

If you don’t have the budget for a professional service, consider hiring a student. They can be found on sites like Olark and Upwork and will work at lower rates than some of the big agencies. 

You may also want to do it yourself if you are looking for an internship or volunteer opportunity in your area of study but don’t take shortcuts. 

Don’t assume that because someone has taken basic marketing courses they can do all of the research required by this project alone; ask them questions about why they think something will work before making any decisions based on their suggestions.

Be sure to learn about your customers before talking with them one-on-one (or one-on-five). 

Reading customer reviews helps give insight into what people think about your product or service as well as how they use it themselves and what they wish were different about it (see Our Story below).

Have A Clear Objective For The Study

A clear objective is important for running a successful study. You need to know what you want to test, improve, eliminate and keep in mind while designing your research project. 

Having an objective at the outset will help you decide which business problem(s) a marketing research study will solve.

The objective should be specific but also flexible enough so that it can be applied across different business situations (e.g., “We want to get more customers for our new product”). Keep the following things in mind when developing an objective:

Focus on one specific problem or question that needs answering through a marketing research project rather than multiple ones (i.e., “How do we increase sales of our product?” versus “What are some ways we can increase sales?”).

Be specific enough so that you can use it as a guide during your research process (i.e., “We want to learn how consumers feel about our product packaging” instead of “We want feedback”).

Marketing research doesn’t have to be complicated. Our article on marketing research made easy provides a step-by-step guide to streamline your efforts and achieve meaningful insights online.

Develop A Realistic Timeline

The first thing to consider is when to run the research. Do you want to get results by the end of the month? Are you aiming for a holiday timeframe? 

This can impact how much lead time you need before getting started and how long it will take for your project team to get all their ducks in a row.

Secondly, how many participants do you expect will complete each stage of the study? If your survey has five pages, how many times are people going to read through it? Will they be willing or able to fill out all 35 questions on your survey before giving up and leaving?

Finally, know that not every participant will give exactly what you’re looking for. There’s always going to be some amount of data loss due in any type of research study and if that’s not addressed upfront, it could throw off your entire project timeline.

Design A Test Plan To Ensure Study Results Are Valid

Designing a test plan is an important step in running an effective research project. A test plan should include a description of the study, target population, sample size and selection criteria, data collection methods and procedures, as well as any statistical analyses that are planned.

Once you have determined your objectives for the project (through interviews with stakeholders), you can start putting together your design. 

For instance, if you want to understand how consumers feel about a product or service concept in its current state (i.e., before it has been launched), then you will need to define what exactly constitutes success for this goal: 

Will it be measured on whether or not customers purchase the new product? Do they like using it? Are there any changes they would make? These answers will help determine whether or not this goal has been met upon completion of your research project.

Iterate On A Test Plan As You Learn More

Iteration is a process of making gradual changes to improve something. In the case of my product, I iterated on my test plan as I learned more about the needs and behaviors of people who use it. My first test was for a specific audience (young women) in one city (Boston). 

But as I talked with people from other cities and demographics, I realized that my target audience was too narrow, so my second iteration expanded it beyond young women in Boston to include all young adults (18–25) in any city who used social media regularly. 

This allowed me to better understand how different types of users interact with the product at different times during their day: 

They might want to see their friends’ updates immediately after waking up or later in the evening when they’re not using mobile data but still want access to their digital life; 

Some users may prefer text-based features while others might value video content; etc., thus helping me make decisions about future iterations based on what works best across different user groups.

It’s important to remember that iteration doesn’t always mean getting something wrong before getting it right it’s just a way for you to learn from your mistakes and improve over time!

Uncover the challenges that come with marketing research and how to address them. Dive into the inconvenient truths of marketing research to gain a comprehensive understanding of the landscape.

Plan For A Learning Curve When Recruiting Participants

Recruiting participants is one of the easiest parts of running a marketing research project. At least, that’s what I thought when I first started. 

After all, how hard could it be to find people who are interested in taking surveys on a topic like “how many peanut butter cups should be included in a package of Reese’s Pieces?”

It turns out that finding people willing to spend an hour or so answering questions about their favorite candy wasn’t as simple as I’d imagined. 

And I didn’t know that there was more than one way to go about it until later on down the road when I had already wasted hours trying different methods and realized that they were not working for me.

Use What You Have Available To Recruit Subjects

Social media. This is an obvious one, but social media can be a great way to recruit participants for your studies. 

If you’re running a study about online shopping behavior, post on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn with links to the study and a brief description of what it is about. You can also use a hashtag in the post so users can find it more easily in search results.

Your existing customer base. If you’re working with clients who are already familiar with your brand or product/service offering.

Ask them if they know anyone who might be interested in participating in your research project as well (e.g., “We’re running some consumer research would any of these questions resonate with someone close to you? We’d love their feedback!”).

Your existing employees/partners/etc., depending on your industry and business model:

Your employees could be an excellent source of participants because they will likely understand how things work at the company and have experienced similar processes and interactions that are being tested during the study (e.g., shopping online). 

Plus, having part-time workers help out with recruitment allows everyone involved with running marketing research projects including sales teams who want better insights into customer needs to focus on other tasks without worrying about finding enough people for those projects!

Understand That Research Is Expensive, But There Are Ways To Save Money

Use A Professional Service

If you are conducting research for the first time or don’t have a lot of experience with it, it is best to use a third-party research firm. Third-party firms have access to a panel of participants and can save you time by having the right people ready when you need them. 

They also know what questions need to be asked and how those questions should be answered for the data gathered to be meaningful.

Get Samples Using Low-Cost Or Free Services

There are many options out there that will allow you to get samples at a lower cost than most commercial services would charge and these include:

  • NFO Research Panel – $99 per month (with upsells available)
  • Survey Monkey – Free survey tool but requires additional tools if you want more advanced features like tracking responses or creating customized surveys

Looking to diversify your research techniques? Explore 14 alternative methods for marketing research that can provide unique perspectives and enrich your insights.

Practice Interviewing Skills Before Testing Begins

You may have already been practicing your interviewing skills with a friend or colleague, but if you haven’t, now is the time to do so. 

Using a script can help ensure that you ask all of the questions that are relevant to your project and prevent you from missing any crucial information. If possible, record yourself so that you can hear how well (or poorly) your interviewees respond to you.

This step is also where most people start using video cameras and digital recording devices like smartphones for conducting interviews on-the-fly. Digital recordings are great because they allow for immediate feedback about how well an interviewee answers each question; 

However, it’s important to note that recording someone without their permission could result in legal action against both parties involved if something goes wrong and sometimes things go very wrong when push comes to shove! 

So keep a paper copy of your script handy so that if something unexpected happens during an interview session, there will still be some sort of record available afterward should anything need clarification later on down the road.”

Choose Interviewers With Some Empathy And Interviewing Experience

Choose interviewers with some empathy and interviewing experience. Interviewers are the people who conduct the research interviews. 

They need to be able to empathize with the participants and understand their perspectives so that they can see things from their point of view, rather than trying to ask questions that will get them what they want (e.g., specific information).

Interviewers should also have some interviewing experience so they know how to ask probing questions when needed and think on their feet if something unexpected happens during an interview. 

They need to be able to listen carefully when someone is talking, paying attention not only to what’s being said but also to how it’s being said (tone of voice, pauses between sentences, etc.).

Prepare Interviewers To Deal With Difficult Respondents In Advance

It is not uncommon for interviewers to encounter respondents who are resistant, uncooperative, and/or combative. While these types of respondents can be frustrating, there are ways to prepare your interviewers to deal with them.

The best way to prepare your interviewers is by giving them some basic training on how to handle difficult respondents. 

This training should include what questions should be asked when you encounter one, as well as some ways in which they can try and defuse the situation (e.g.: asking the respondent if they have any questions about the research). 

They should also be told that it is their job as an interviewer not only to conduct the survey but also to glean information from the respondent that may help solve potential problems with a project or uncover issues within a company’s operations.

So that they can be addressed before they become expensive or damaging errors that could cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

For those getting started with marketing research, survey sites can be invaluable tools. Discover the 15 best survey sites for beginner marketers that can help you gather data efficiently and make informed decisions.


While conducting marketing research can be daunting at first, I hope this article has helped you understand the process better and how it will benefit your company. 

Marketing research is a powerful tool that can help you determine what customers want out of your product or service. 

So, if you are thinking about running a marketing research project in the future, don’t let fear hold you back! It may seem overwhelming at times, but as long as you plan and follow these steps, everything should run smoothly.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources for further reading on topics related to marketing research and career development:

Lessons Learned from a Research Survey ProjectLearn from the experiences of others in the field through insights gained from a research survey project. Discover key takeaways and best practices for conducting successful surveys.

Starting a Career in Marketing: A Comprehensive GuideIf you’re considering a career in marketing, this comprehensive guide provides essential information on how to get started, the skills required, and potential career paths in the field.

5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Marketing CareerGain insights from a seasoned marketer’s perspective as they share five valuable lessons they wish they had known when they first began their marketing career.


How can I improve my survey project outcomes?

To enhance the results of your survey project, focus on clear and concise question formulation, diverse respondent recruitment, and careful data analysis.

What are the key skills required to excel in a marketing career?

Succeeding in marketing demands a blend of creativity, strategic thinking, communication skills, data analysis, and the ability to adapt to evolving trends.

What are some common challenges faced by beginners in marketing?

Newcomers to marketing often encounter challenges related to understanding their target audience, creating effective campaigns, and staying updated with the rapidly changing digital landscape.

What insights can I gain from a marketer’s personal experiences?

Learning from the experiences of established marketers can provide valuable lessons and practical advice, helping you navigate your marketing career more effectively.

How can I transition into a marketing career from a different field?

Transitioning into marketing from another field requires identifying transferable skills, gaining relevant training, and demonstrating a passion for the industry through projects and networking.