In the market research industry, it’s something we hear all the time from our clients – simply delivering a list of statistics won’t help them see the big picture or form a plan of action, nor will it be easy for them to remember. What will create an impact is a story, one that is thoughtfully crafted together from their data.
However, this can feel like it’s something that is easier said than done, as we don’t often go into detail on effective and practical ways to accomplish this. As someone who has several years of experience creating market research deliverables, here are some of my favorite best practices on how to dive deeper into your data to create a story that is memorable and more likely to lead to impactful decisions.
- Think about your survey audience. Make a point to describe your audience in detail from the start to set the scene and create additional context. Ask yourself the following questions: How much does your audience know about the survey topic? What are the requirements that your audience had to meet to participate in the research? How does focusing on this audience help us address our research objectives? Getting more in-depth with your audience is another way to add color to your story. Try focusing on smaller segments of data, or even individual respondents. Sharing where opinions differ or where people are more united on a topic can make your research feel more “real” as opposed to numbers on a chart.
- Don’t censor or “cherry-pick” your data. It’s critical to share the story that the data gives us, and not just the story you want to tell. The only time it should be acceptable to be selective in the data you share is when you’re confident that you are sharing the best representation of the research participant’s view. For example, removing extreme outliers when calculating an optimal price point for a product. It can be easy to get carried away by our own pre-conceived ideas, however, being mindful and reviewing your work for bias can prevent harming your credibility.
- Consider your question flow. A great way to set yourself up for success at the beginning of the research process is to be mindful of your survey question flow. First, consider what research objectives are a top priority for your client and make sure your questions cover them adequately, and avoid getting too in the weeds on topics that are of less interest. From there, sort your questions by topic in an order that makes sense for your specific study. It is best to ask higher-level questions first and get into more specific questions later. Once your data is collected, your story will come more naturally, with smooth transitions from topic to topic. It can also be helpful to make note of your survey flow when presenting your research, for example, mentioning when insights come from the last question in the survey to convey that you were collecting final thoughts from your audience to wrap up the story.
- Adding qualitative analysis. Qualitative research can give us a certain level of insight that quantitative can’t always achieve. Qualitative research can be collected in a variety of ways, and it’s a good idea to include at least a small portion of it in every study. This is because in quantitative survey research, respondents are bound by the answer options that the researcher provides. Qualitative research gives participants the opportunity to share thoughts that may have been missed when developing the research plan or elaborate on why they feel the way they do about a product or service. This additional insight can help back up certain points and make them feel more compelling and interesting. Include quotes next to statistics or charts, or summarize the main themes found across responses.
- Visual design. One of the more obvious ways to enhance your story is by sharing visuals of your data. While it’s a good idea to include a variety of visuals to create interest, be careful not to get caught up in making everything “look cool” at the expense of being able to get your message across easily. Spending too much time explaining how to read a visual in order for the message to be received can distract from the flow of your story, and is a sign to consider evaluating how you can make your visuals more digestible. Some ways to do this are breaking up the information into multiple visuals, using color to communicate positive and negative data points, and using size and shape to direct the eye to the most important pieces of information.