Aim, Ready, Fire: Three steps to meaningful research

July 31, 2018By Brand Marketing, Views

By Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, “Out of the Box” column, May/June 2018

To advance virtually any business initiative, effective market research is critical. Too often this step is overlooked or shoddily conducted, resulting in less than ideal outcomes. Time spent adequately preparing can increase the likelihood of success and eliminate significant angst and painful recovery to regain footing.

At Hamacher Resource Group, Inc. (HRG) we conduct market research for various client projects, in preparation for training programs or educational sessions to be presented by our company, and for our own business planning and strategic decisions. The process is similar in all instances, and encompasses five questions that fall into three broad categories: Aim, Ready, and Fire.

Answers to these mission-critical questions should be the starting point for any market research project:

  • Where is the brand in its product life cycle?
  • What is the intended outcome of the project?
  • What is the competitive landscape and resource situation? How will resources be assigned to achieve the goal?
  • What can the company do to fill gaps and in what timeframe?

Step One: Aim
Start by realistically assessing where your brand is in the product life cycle. Are you hoping to revive a declining product? Do you want to understand another target demographic to determine how to appeal to them and expand growth? Understanding whether it’s in introduction, growth, maturity, or decline will help you formulate your goal for the research.

Once you have that established, think about your goal. Determining the objectives of the research will guide the construction of questions and inform the instrument, sample size and characteristics, as well as timing.

Of the five questions posed above, understanding the intended outcome (what does success look like?) and facing the brutal reality of the competitive landscape are both vital to calibrating the aim to be focused and unwavering. Jim Collins recently spoke during the NACDS Annual Meeting and used a tremendous analogy describing the process of taking aim. Paraphrasing, he described a battleship taking aim at a target. Initially the boat fires bullets in the direction of the enemy to align the right trajectory and direction of the eventual cannonballs. In other words, ensure you know what you’re aiming at before you bring out the heavy ammunition.

Step Two: Ready
How will you assign resources to achieve the goal? Realistic timelines, methods of collection and analysis, and people re-sources must be defined during this stage. Winging it with the expectation of meeting the project goals is never a good strategy.
This is also the time to assign responsibilities to the team and ensure that everyone understands the importance of adherence to the timeline and the scope of the project. Hold the team accountable for their specific activities and tasks.
This crucial second step has everything to do with alignment and preparedness. Facing the stark realities of resource constraints (research, budgetary, or human) contributes to an honest assessment of capabilities, competencies, and concerns.

Step Three: Fire
This step addresses the question, how will the company fill the gaps and in what timeframe? Clear expectations will keep the project on track and provide a sense of ownership – and a keen sense of accomplishment as a project progresses. There should be a kick-off meeting, time checks, and milestone tracking along the way, a team effort to pull the pieces of research into one final report, and a celebration afterward (not to mention a post mortem identifying process improvements).
Although pre-planning can begin to identify gaps and help to point toward additional partners or resources that will help you achieve your goals, flexibility and self-awareness during the project is also paramount. Obstacles and unknown setbacks must be handled and hopefully thwarted to keep the project on track. It’s been said that if you don’t have a plan, you should plan to fail. I would add that if you don’t have contingencies and face disruptions as they occur, your likelihood of failure is certain.

Following an Aim, Ready, Fire, approach has not only enabled HRG to remain on track with numerous research projects, but also provided our clients and partners peace of mind, visibility throughout the process, and confirmation of aligned goals.