A market research brief is a document a client produces detailing important information about their unique situation and research requirements. This information should include (but is not limited to) the context of the situation in which the decision to conduct research was made, the initial objectives, and the resulting actions that hope to be taken after the research has concluded.
This brief would come before the typical market research plan (see our example here), and so any information that is contained within the brief will be subject to modification once in-depth chats between the client and the research agency have been conducted.
This is one of the most important initiating steps for market research as it provides the necessary information that researchers need to understand your needs as much as you do yourself. There is a lot to be said for being on the same page at this early stage of the research experience. While different agencies will prioritise different aspects of the research project, 90% of the brief will follow the same lines, so a draft should always be made and then it can be easily edited to the agency’s requirements.
Why Create a Market Research Brief?
Writing up a brief is essential for the clear communication of your research requirements. Clear communication from the very start is essential if a positive working relationship is going to bloom between the parties involved.
This brief outline of a business’ unique scenario communicates information that researchers need in order to achieve a high level of understanding which they can use to create and further refine a detailed plan the research experience.
Just looking at the many template designs out there, we can see that a research brief has a few key aspects that everyone agrees are important:
1. Contextual Information
Now this can be interpreted in two ways, both of which should be included within the market research brief. The first interpretation is contextual information relating to the business hiring the research agency. What does the business do? What are it’s values? How is it run? And then the second interpretation is contextual information relating to how the need for research arose. What are the steps that took place towards the realisation that research was needed?
This timeline could span months or just days, but even so, the detail must be included for the researcher to get a full understanding of the situation at hand.
2. Description of Research Purpose
At this point, a description of the product (or service) which is to be researched is needed; whoever is carrying out the research will need to know as much detail as possible about the subject of the study as this will have a big influence on the research method used (more information on that to come).
A description of the target markets will also be needed at this point: covering the geographical territories, the target audience (consumers vs. potential consumers) and any specific demographics that should be included or excluded. If this information is known, an approximate sample size can also be noted down.
If a business is wanting to test adverts, product examples, etc. then example designs or prototypes are going to be needed for both the researcher and the participants to use in the formation of the research tasks and the generation of data.
Again, this aspect of the brief can be split up into two equally important interpretations. The objectives of the business are incredibly important as they provide another level of contextual understanding for the researcher. The other set of objectives that are needed within the brief, are the research objectives. Now, these are usually formed as questions that the business would like answered, but are subject to modification with the input of the researcher as they will know what is achievable, and what the business needs instead of what they want.
Research objectives also cover what the business want to do with the insights generated as that gives an indication of what sort of research needs to be conducted. For the best research experience that ends in fully applicable insights, aligning business and research objectives is imperative.
4. Research Methods
While this will also be subject to modification, an idea of what types of research methods the business might want to employ for this research experience will provide insights on a couple of things to a well-trained researcher. Firstly, it will indicate the business’ level of knowledge on market research, which will allow the researcher to adjust their tone, etc. to accommodate for any knowledge gaps that might be present.
Secondly, it will indicate what type of research that the business is looking to conduct (i.e. qualitative or quantitative, etc.), even if they don’t know it themselves. This section also serves the purpose of sparking a bit of research on the business’ end to see for themselves what options are available to them.
5. Business constraints
This is a relatively simple one. Constraints such as time and budget are imperative to communicate to the researcher, as this will be the main factor in the shaping of your research experience. Depending on whether a business is very constrained or loosely constrained will determine what types of research tasks should be employed, and how extravagant and dedicated a researcher can be in their pursuit of insights for the business.
a. Research Deliverables
Finally, this is an optional category of information that will help shape the research experience in both the formation of the research tasks and the research reports. One important question is, what actions would you want to take after receiving the insights from the research?
If the answer to this question depends on the tone of the insights, then what options do you see for how the results will be used within the business? Different agencies will offer different reporting options and it helps to know which you would like. So, what type of report would you like to receive? The answers to these questions help how the report and project are framed.
Free Template Example
Use this link to download our free market research brief template. This template contains editable sections that complies with the advice above, with brief guidance and tips on how to make the most out of your brief.
Use this link to download our free market research brief template. This template contains editable sections that complies with the advice above, with brief guidance and tips on how to make the most out of your brief. This template is currently available in .docx format only, and will require a copy of Microsoft Word or an alternative text editor to be used.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.