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Big Data has inundated companies, and though all of the charts, statistics, and prolific data sets give us guides on customer behavior, data can also confuse and obscure the real issues.

As market researchers, it’s our job to help companies make sense of the Big Data, and we do this by understanding what questions to ask. Yes, we do generate more data in our research, but once we’ve identified the essential questions, the data comes into focus.

Let’s explore the essential questions that every company should be asking, and we’ll discuss how market research helps you answer these questions.

Essential business question #1: What is the actual question?

When you are confronted with reams of data, charts, and piles of research, take a step back. Instead of asking what it all means, you need to first know what you’re asking for. What is the single-most essential business problem that you’re trying to solve by having access to your Big Data? This sounds straightforward, right? Yet time and time again, we see companies impressed by their amount of data, yet they remain paralyzed in constructing anything meaningful from it because they simply haven’t started at the beginning.

And what is the beginning?

Your essential business question. It could be “What will our customers think about this new product offering?”


“What effect will this price increase have on sales?”

Your essential question isn’t rocket science. Yet so often in business, we lose focus of the actual issue we’re working on because our Big Data takes center stage. We miss the very matter that all of our information is supposed to solve because we lose sight of the real business concerns in light of statistics that may or may not even be relevant to the actual business driver.

Essential business question #2: What do your customers think about ____ (fill in the blank)

Once you know what your essential business question is, you will be able to pinpoint the relevant information that your data set is designed to solve. Step two is to then turn to how your essential question affects your customers.

In business, your focus needs to remain on your customers. How does your product design affect how your customers will perceive and use the product? How does the pricing increase (which may be fantastic for your bottom line, but that’s irrelevant to what customers think) change your customers’ perception of the product? How does your more efficient logistical solution ultimately affect how the customers will receive the product?

Business issues, unfortunately, generally boil down to profit margins, logistics, and infrastructure, but they don’t consider the customers’ perspective enough.

And if you are selling to customers (which 99% of companies are), you simply can’t ignore question #2.

Essential business question #3: What critical information will keep your business out of danger?

The third essential question you need to ask is this: What information must you know to keep your business out of trouble? Perhaps it’s a trend in the marketplace, such as the growth of your main competitor. It could be customer preferences and subtle changes in buying behavior. Your business will have its unique challenges, so you absolutely must identify what to track that could negatively affect your business if it changes.

There will be all sorts of markers from your data sets that could indicate trouble, but there will likely be a few select numbers that you absolutely must pay attention to. This concept, as well, sounds straightforward, but keep in mind that it’s commonly lost in Big Data sets as companies lose sight of the numbers that indicate actual threats to their business’ vitality.

How to answer the three essential business questions

We hate to be the ones to break the news, but no amount of data crunching will truly help you answer the questions outlined here. You first need to identify what questions to ask, and then segment out who will be your beacon in answering these essential questions.

Enter: Market research.

In market research, our job is to take a step back, look at your business objectively, and drill down into the essential questions. We will examine your data, talk to your team, and come up with the essential question(s), which we then use as our guide to build a qualitative and quantitative market study design. Once we know what problem we’re trying to solve, we can then move into the second essential question, which is figuring out what your customers think. Through focus groups, in-depth interviews, or ethnographic research, we’ll spend some quality time figuring out how your customers perceive the business change you’re attempting, and we’ll be able to more effectively answer essential question #1 through their perspective.

Finally, we’ll work with you to understand business threats and critical business data (essential question #3), by doing a comprehensive competitive analysis, larger market analysis, and SWOT analysis with your team.

Your data – in all of it’s Big glory – will suddenly make a lot more sense, giving you the ability to strategize effectively without drowning in unessential numbers.

Do you know your essential business questions? Let’s figure it out >