How to Maximize your Research Budget in a Recession
Ruth Stanat, President and CEO
January 28, 2009

The Recession

Clearly, this deep global recession has taken it toll on marketing departments and market research and competitive intelligence budgets. Senior executives, strategic planning and marketing departments face the following challenge of how to continue the following initiatives with a reduced research budget:

  • Global expansion plans
  • Customer satisfaction tracking
  • Competitor intelligence monitoring
  • Market opportunity/market sizing projects
  • Customer and brand loyalty projects
  • New product development tests
  • Ad tests

The Challenge and Opportunity of a Reduced Research Budget

A reduced research budget forces executives to re-think their long term and tactical strategy. It also forces them to prioritize initiatives in this downturn. To this end, global expansion plans may be curbed. On the other hand, this presents a risk as their competitors may still move forward into global and emerging markets, thus putting them at a strategic disadvantage when the market turns up. The key is to prioritize and to “get the most from your reduced research budget” so your firm will not fall behind in the next few years. This paper will discuss general strategies on how to efficiently utilize a reduced research budget and to provide this intelligence to senior management during this market downturn.

Competitive Intelligence Monitoring

It is important to consider not cutting the competitive intelligence monitoring budget. Companies should still be monitoring your competitors’ movements in the global market place. To this end, the following are examples of cost effective competitive intelligence monitoring techniques that companies can utilize from either internal resources or research suppliers.

1. Ongoing CI Monitoring and Tracking Programs

This can be accomplished by monitoring the web, blogs, and the media. This information can be validated by outside research suppliers with people on the ground. Research suppliers can offer ongoing tracking programs to cost effectively yield the maximum amount of CI intelligence tracking for the budget.

2. Focused Competitor Profiles

Rather than commissioning multiple competitor profiles, it may be possible to prioritize budgets with the top 1 or 2 competitors that can be covered for the budget. It is important to share the intelligence that resides internally with the research supplier to save time and money to avoid their reinventing of the wheel.

3. Conducting Business Intelligence Prior to Commissioning Qualitative and Quantitative Field Work

Companies can first consider conducting Business Intelligence, prior to costly qualitative and quantitative research projects. Business Intelligence reports include a mixed methodology of desk research and interviews with key opinion leaders. This snap shot of market intelligence, will provide a road map for qualitative and quantitative research budgets.

Ways to Get the Most Value for the Price of Qualitative Market Research

1. Focus Groups

From the business intelligence report, companies may likely be able to target the geographical area and respondent profiles for the development of their research design for focus groups. This leads to a more “streamlined rifle” approach rather than focus on a large scale geographical coverage approach to country research.

2. In-Depth Interviews

In-Depth Interviews

[IDIs] can be conducted cost-effectively with a higher degree of emphasis on the profile of the respondents over the number or quantity of respondents. Secondly, IDIs can be conducted in sequence. Rather than conducting all of the IDIs at once, they can be phased in 5-10 increments and evaluate the intelligence gained from each set, prior to continuing with the rest of the interviews.

Ways to Get the Most Value from the Price of Quantitative Research

Large scale quantitative research is most often the most expensive to commission. With a reduced budget, companies may be tempted to reduce the sample size. However, this reaction often produces results with a lower confidence level.

Some companies may consider the following:

1. Rethinking research objectives and consider prioritizing [or phasing] research objectives.
2. Reduce the scope of the project
3. Select high priority market segments or countries
4. Consider online interviews [where they can be successfully completed] rather than CATI [computer assisted telephone interviews] or face to face interviews in less developed countries
5. Utilize your sales offices and international offices to gather competitive and market intelligence. You can utilize this information and share it with research suppliers to reduce their research costs.

What to avoid in a Recession with a Reduced Research Budget

Reflecting on 25 years of experience with reduced research budgets in recessions, I have noticed that the following should not be done during a recession for the vast majority of cases:

1. Cutting out ALL qualitative and/or quantitative research

2. Reliance on secondary reports which have limited scope and to which competitors have access.

3. Cutting out all of the trade shows, conferences and place whereby you interact with customers and stakeholders. Often, these venues are great sources of competitive and market intelligence.