Written by Matt Barnes, Director

How can market research reduce commercial risk?

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We have all faced difficult decisions in our professional lives. Should we launch a new product or service? Is now a good time to go ahead with that marketing strategy or PR campaign? How confident do you feel about investing in that large capital expenditure project?

To some degree, making decisions is left to gut feel, making outcomes unpredictable and providing us with little in the way of confidence that we will get the result we are looking for. For decisions of low importance, this is okay – but when the stakes are high and we are making choices that come at a significant cost to the business, or which may affect our corporate reputation (either as an organisation or as an individual), it is important that we mitigate that risk as much as possible. And even when we feel well-informed by the information we have to hand, it is often good practice to check its robustness via a credible third party.

So, what can be done to inform and improve decision making, and to provide safeguards against the consequences of making the wrong choices?

Unfortunately, none of us can completely predict the future or fully foresee the outcomes of our choices, no matter how good our planning processes, but decision making can be backed up by professional insights from trusted sources, such as via a reputable market research company. Investing in independent market data and third-party analysis demonstrates to others within your organisation that you have taken reasonable steps to predict the outcome of your decision, and safeguards you against any implicit or explicit accusation of taking an unnecessary or ill-informed risk.

How does commercial insight support the decision-making process?

  • Feedback on strategies and plans: Investing in robust feedback about a strategy or long-term plan can help you to avoid potential pitfalls – and it can lead to lots of fresh insights too that you might not have thought of. You will be assured of the validity of your plans, tactics and strategies by checking them out in advance with a sample of your target audience.
  • Keep abreast of rapid changes in today’s dynamic world: Decisions can be made that take into account how people feel about economic confidence or political uncertainty such as are affected by Brexit and a hung parliament, or environmental trends, social factors and corporate responsibility.
  • Develop content that your clients want to hear about: By speaking directly to your target audience, asking them what is important to them, you can tailor future content and thought leadership pieces.

Why then, with the clear advantages of an insight-led approach to decision making, do so many choose to go it alone?

  • Time: For some, deadlines and the need to act quickly trump the apparent luxury of comprehensive investigation, but this must be measured against the potential consequences of getting a decision wrong. In the long run, following best practice will often prove to be worth the wait, as it will enable you to improve your plans.
  • Cost: This is usually the main obstacle for those considering an investment in commercial insight. Commissioning a bespoke research product can be expensive, and the cost of doing so can often outweigh the perceived benefit, especially for smaller businesses.

Our solution:

With these obstacles in mind, we have developed Business Spotlight, a cost-effective monthly telephone survey to support business decision making. Every month, our business omnibus speaks to 500 business owners across the UK. You can add your questions about your next big commercial decision to our survey in a cost-effective way. You can find out more here.