This is the third article in a five-part series entitled Market Research – Intelligence to Drive Your Business, contributed by Susanne Bowen of S J Bowen & Associates.  Susanne is one of our valued partners at DSE.

No matter whether a business is focused on its developmental lifecycle phase, a particular functional process or a specific concern (e.g., increase in calls to customer service, measuring the impact of new marketing tactics on customer sales, or jump in employee attrition), choosing the right metrics to gain insight is critically important.

Well-chosen metrics allow for immediate targeting or understanding of issues and guide decisions about the direction forward. That is not to say that additional analysis will never be required. In fact, selection of the most efficient and effective metrics may be an iterative process until one develops a set with which they are confident.

The single most important activity you can take in determining the type of metric to use in a research initiative is to ask the following question: Does this metric further my goal of answering the strategic question or goal(s) supporting this research?

Some metrics are “lagging” (a measure of an event that took place in the past) and others are “leading” (a signal of a possible future event). It is valuable to utilize both types of metrics.

When conducting market research, metrics chosen to capture results vary due to the nature of the research: exploratory (qualitative) or a snapshot of market activity (quantitative). It’s not uncommon for there to be a combination of both. Question structure is important so that questions are not asked in a biased or leading manner.

The following guidelines seem like common sense but should be thoroughly considered when selecting the reporting metrics for your next research initiative:

  • Ask questions that employ metrics and yield data that are relevant and essential in managing your business.
  • Utilize evidence-based metrics that are informative and valuable in the decision-making process and specifically which will further your competitive advantage.
  • Choose metrics that reference areas over which you have control.
  • Utilize metrics that measure your competitive advantage. Competitive advantage may lay in a company’s process, product delivery, or in the customer’s experience.
  • Choose metrics that yield data that are comparative to your own business over time or to other businesses. These metrics may include rank ordered, ratio or percent of total metrics.
  • Include leading metrics that serve as an early warning or signal a favorable trend.

Keep in mind that the selection of the “right” metrics for you and your organization may be an iterative process and is likely to change over time as your business changes or the overall climate changes.