Guest Post: Leave the Headache to Bayer – Optimize your Analyses by Starting with Key Issues

We are happy to introduce you to our newest guest blogger, Tom Sommers, a McKinley consultant with a market research and communications background. Tom has chosen to share a few proactive steps that can help reduce costs when working with a consultant on a market research project.

Leave the Headache to Bayer –

Optimize your Analyses by Starting with Key Issues

By Tom Sommers

When developing a market-research analysis with outside partners, keeping track of the moving parts, perspectives and priorities can be challenging.  However, it doesn’t need to be if you start with a few simple steps to get internal and external parties on the same page.

The analytical process is all about communication, so neither client nor consultant needs to make assumptions that can easily cost you in missed deadlines, budget overruns, and damaged client/consultant relationships.

By covering some key issues, you can streamline your analytical process, have fewer report iterations, and maybe even deliver on time and below budget with actionable insights to boot.  The idea behind these questions is to minimize unwanted surprises.

Examples of key issues for a conversation between the client and the consultant even before the cursor meets the screen:

  • Confirm marketing and research objectives and relative priority – This ensures that the analyst focuses on the desired areas.
  • Analytical plan – Who is responsible for crafting, approving, and ensuring that everyone adheres to it?
  • Previous reports – Is there a report from a previous quarter, year, etc., to which you’re expecting to compare the new study’s results?  The answer can determine the need for updating or complementing an existing report(s) or crafting an entirely new one.
  • Significance testing – Is there a need to highlight significant differences in the data set and if so, what is the significance threshold?
  • Format – Preference for the analysis to be in Word or PowerPoint or some other format?
  • Fonts – Styles and sizes can differ by client and for headlines, sub heads, text, chart legends, etc.
  • Active vs. passive voice – Active is easier to read, some clients may prefer the latter.
  • Text vs. bar vs. pie charts – Some data points or percentages are more appropriate for text, bars, and pies but one style rarely works for all types.
  • Headline or action statement – Is the headline to grab the reader’s attention or to summarize the section’s findings in one line?  Don’t use the headline to state the obvious.
  • Recommendations – Clients differ on whether they want the external consultant to make the recommendations or if it’s up to the internal, market-research liaison to finish the report with their own insights.  Preference can be a matter of personal or company culture. 

Save yourself the headache and ask some questions before you go far into the analysis.  People may balk at discussing the minutiae, but in the end, you’ll be a hero.

What questions have you found to be useful in this or similar circumstances? Let us know what you’ve discovered that works, and feel free to share these ideas with your external partners and inside intelligents.


Tom SommersTom Sommers is principal of Explorations & Insights, a suburban Washington, DC consulting firm with expertise Fortune 500 firms and supporting advertising/PR agencies.  He is a contributing blogger, writer, marketing-research strategist, and weekend yogi.  Follow on Twitter @tomsommers1.

by McKinley Marketing Partners