#MLleeds Speaker Spotlight: Duncan McCallum

Duncan McCallumAs part of the build-up to next month’s Marketing Leaders Masterclass, I put a series of questions to our industry experts, in order to reveal what inspires and drives them each day.

In today’s post, Duncan McCallum, Founding Partner of market research consultancy McCallum Layton shares his take on the research industry.

What inspired you to get into a career in research?

“I originally was invited to fill a position in brand management but as part of the graduate training scheme I had to spend some time in the research department; I liked its mental challenges and the multi-faceted nature of the work so much I ended up staying in research.”

Best advice you would give to a someone starting their career in research?

“Always think about how the results can be used – wear your client’s hat and for each of your findings ask yourself the question “So What?”  If you cannot answer that question the information is of no use.”

Best advice you have ever received, which has helped you in your career?

“When I was starting out in my career I worked for Armstrong Worldwide Industries and was eager for promotion.  My American boss said; “Start work an hour before everyone else and finish an hour after everyone else and actually do some work and don’t sit around drinking coffee; that means you’ll work more than an extra day every week, and given a 5 day 40 week working year will equate to 2 months’ more work a year than your colleagues – if you can’t get promotion after that you don’t deserve it”.

What is your biggest pain-point about the research industry?

“There is sometimes too much emphasis on methodology when what is really important is the outcome; this often carries over into clients being more interested in using a ‘new methodology’ than choosing the right tool(s) for the job.  If you’re in court and hire a barrister you don’t ask how he/she is going to defend you – you assume they know what they’re doing, similarly you don’t go to an accountant and ask them what new accounting methods they have this month.”

Your dream client and why?

“Every client is a dream client – without them I wouldn’t have a job.”

Click here to confirm your interest in attending the Marketing Leaders Masterclass

Using Our Senses – A Sensory Approach To Successful Brand and Product Development

Vivien Wilton-Middlemass, Head of Sensory Research at McCallum Layton will be presenting a paper on “Using Our Senses – A Sensory Approach To Successful Brand and Product Development” at this year’s Insight Show, which takes place between 29-30th June 2010 at (Grand Hall, Olympia, London). Vivien’s session will be held on both days at the event, and will uncover:

· How to develop a successful brand/product strategy
utilising a combined sensory and consumer research

· Explore the benefits of sensory research

· Using all our senses to create longer, stronger and more
profitable brands/products

If you would like to find out more information about this session or arrange a meeting with Vivien, please contact: John McCambley, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications on Tel: +44 (0)113 237 5590.

A Guide To Effective Employee Satisfaction Research

Most organisations put considerable effort into maintaining customer closeness, as this is rightly seen as a key component of running a successful business. As part of this process, it is important to remember that customer opinion can be heavily influenced by the attitude and morale of employees within your organisation, and that monitoring this is therefore crucial. Indeed, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development goes as far as to say, “Most research confirms that the quality of people management is a better predictor of performance than business strategy, research and development or quality management” (Change Agenda on Human Capital, 2003). This being the case, monitoring staff opinions and reacting effectively to their feedback can lead not only to improved retention and productivity, but can also be reflected in improvements in customer satisfaction, and so is a critical component in the management toolkit.

This is especially true in today’s tough economic climate, where there is far less flexibility in the offer of financial rewards – employee engagement is increasingly important in retaining talent. The recession has changed the playing field for many businesses, and they are having to re-evaluate what they can do to attract, develop and retain the best people at least cost, not simply for the sake of being a good employer but to secure the financial success of their organisation.

Measuring employee perceptions is not as straightforward as just taking more notice of discussions around the water-cooler, of course; here are some tips to help you design and get the most out of your employee consultation process.

Make sure the research format is accessible to all
Every staff member should be given the chance to air their views, in a systematic and structured way. This is important in terms of being seen to be inclusive, and also to enable results to be analysed, and recommendations targeted, in as fine detail as possible. In practical terms, this means undertaking a survey to which all staff, not just a sample, are invited to participate, and careful consideration must be given to the circumstances of all existing staff, making sure they can access the survey, and have sufficient time to take part.

If you are considering an online approach, for example, remember that any field-based employees may access their e-mails much less frequently than those based in the office. It may be worth thinking about offering different methods for different categories of employee, if necessary.

A high response rate gives the results more power
Just like an election with poor turnout, a low response rate can result in people questioning the legitimacy of the results. Therefore, plans must be put in place to maximise buy-in to the study. Before the survey is distributed, publicise the fact that it will be taking place. Explain the process, stressing that it provides an opportunity for staff to give their views and that the results will help shape internal policy. This message is best communicated from someone at a senior level, as having visible senior buy-in emphasises the importance of the consultation.

The questionnaire itself can also impact response rates, as can the organisation of the fieldwork period. Questions should cover all aspects of the working experience, but it’s best to avoid a long questionnaire, as this can make it harder for busy people to find time to participate. Open ended questions in particular should be used carefully: they can provide useful, detailed feedback, but they also take longer to answer than closed questions. Finally, set a reasonable deadline for completing the survey. Ideally, staff should be given a few weeks to respond, as this should still allow any who are on annual leave during part of the fieldwork period to participate. A small number of reminder communications during the fieldwork period can also help to increase response.

Remember the importance of anonymity
Another pre-requisite of a successful employee consultation is guaranteeing that anonymity is protected and emphasised throughout the process. If there is any concern that comments could be identified by senior management, the chance of obtaining honest, open feedback is lost. Commissioning an external agency to run the consultation project, and making this clear to all staff, can make all the difference to the success of the exercise – having the results held and processed by an independent party can provide reassurance that anonymity will be ensured.

It is also useful to explain how the results will be analysed. Whilst it is common practice to break the results down by department or level of seniority, the level of drill-down does depend on the number of employees in each subgroup. A good research process will prevent the possibility of someone’s answers being identifiable because they are the only senior manager within a particular division, for example. Finally, the methodology must also allow respondents to complete the survey in private; this can make a telephone interview inappropriate if respondents are contacted in the office.

Identify feasible improvements that will make a difference
Once the fieldwork is completed, that’s when the real work begins. Whilst each result may be interesting in its own way, it’s advisable to focus on finding out what’s important to employees themselves. This can be done by identifying the issues most strongly correlated with overall satisfaction. Most employees will be happy to accept that their job cannot be perfect in every way, but may still become disenchanted if they find fault in those areas that they value most in a job. By focussing on what is most important, it should be possible to identify the most pressing problems, and then prioritise changes that can potentially make the largest difference.

Communicate the findings and the actions you intend to take
Post-survey communication can prove as important as the analysis itself. Sharing the findings with all staff is strongly recommended; if employees think you are merely paying lip service to the process without actively looking to change anything, this is only marginally better than not consulting them at all. Tell them where the results were positive, where they could have been better, and importantly, what you plan to do in response to their feedback.

Finally, follow through on your promises
Once you’ve informed staff what actions will be taken, it is vitally important to then go ahead and do what you said you would. If you don’t follow through effectively, this can engender a cynical attitude which could even result in a drop in morale. In her work on psychological contracts in organisations (1995), Rousseau observed, “We know that when employees feel that their boss or firm has broken their expectations about work and career opportunities they often feel less committed to the organisation.” And less commitment to the organisation translates into less commitment to your customers.

Keeping Customers Satisfied

Effective customer satisfaction research brings accurate feedback and valuable data, says Jonathan Pickup, B2B research manager at McCallum Layton Customer satisfaction is integral to a successful business operation and is strongly linked to customer retention. But not all businesses formally evaluate and track the changing satisfaction levels of their customers. In particular, B2B organisations tend to rely on more anecdotal feedback, provided by relationship managers or account handlers. While this can work, there is a danger that dissatisfaction can remain hidden until it is too late. Relationship managers may be reluctant to feed back minor issues that might not portray their own work in the best light.

Engaging a third party to conduct customer satisfaction research brings more rigour and independence to the process. The opportunity to speak anonymously allows customers to provide more honest feedback. A good research provider will also help you to maximise the value of your customer satisfaction measurement.
Here are some tips for getting the most out your customer satisfaction research.

1. Who to survey?
It is easy to bias your results from the start if care is not taken when compiling the list of customers to contact. The best starting point is to put together a comprehensive list of all contacts, regardless of how likely you feel they are to respond to a survey, or to answer positively.

Next, think about how you might classify your customer base. It makes sense to conduct the survey with a representative sample of customers, but there may be good reason to consider conducting research with certain subgroups. For example, your organisation may provide different products or services to different markets – and customer experiences may therefore differ widely. Similarly, you may wish to include more of your most important customers, especially if these relationships are managed differently.

2. What method?
Once you have compiled your list, consider how customers could best be contacted. Most B2B customer satisfaction research is conducted by telephone, as this usually achieves the best levels of response. If you typically communicate with your customers electronically, however, an online approach could also work. High-value customers may be interviewed face-to-face, to help reinforce the relationship.

3. What to ask?
Your results should not just measure satisfaction, but also identify the most effective steps you could take to improve perceptions. Listing the factors on which you are likely to be judged is a good starting point. Include overall satisfaction and loyalty measures, as easy reference scores that can be communicated throughout the business.

A good customer satisfaction survey would normally take about 10–15 minutes. Much longer than this and the depth and quality of customers” responses may suffer, or they may be less likely to agree to take part in the first place. If your initial draft is too long, separate the “nice-to-know” from the “need-to-know” – focus on what is important to the customer and those factors you can really do something about.

4. How often?
Many customer satisfaction projects are run as regular tracking programmes, rather than one-off surveys. This helps you to keep your finger on the pulse of customer opinion, and evaluate any actions you have taken based on previous results.

How often you need to take measurements will depend on the nature of your market. If most customers tend to build long-term relationships with your organisation, satisfaction may be a fairly stable measure that is unlikely to change dramatically in the short-term unless there are exceptional circumstances (e.g. major changes to pricing). In this case, annual tracking may be sufficient.
Conversely, if your industry is fast moving and competitive, and customers readily switch suppliers, more frequent waves may be appropriate, allowing you to identify and react to any changes in customer opinion promptly.

5. Data analysis
The analysis of customer satisfaction data tends to centre around identifying weaker areas of performance, so that improvements can be implemented. A quick scan of the results will identify the areas of service where scores are lowest.

What this does not provide, however, is any kind of prioritisation. Most customers will accept a lesser service in areas they think of as less important, as long as performance is good on the critical factors. A “key driver analysis” can be used to identify factors most closely correlated with overall satisfaction, so that you can focus first on improvements that are likely to have the greatest impact.

6. Review and refresh
Whilst the first wave of research should provide you with a greater understanding of customer opinion, it is important that future waves continue to build on this. An effective customer satisfaction tracking survey will offer much more than just a regular set of top-level figures.

The programme should be regularly reviewed to identify any new areas of interest to include in future waves. Even though the survey is designed to track data over time, this does not mean that the questionnaire cannot be changed at all, as long as care is taken not to introduce any new bias into the overall measures.

Finally, leave room in your questionnaire for a tactical response section that changes periodically. Questions can be inserted as new issues of interest arise, providing topical information to the business without needing to set up and conduct separate research studies.

How To Develop An Effective Segmentation Strategy

Dr Angela Karlsberg, head of analytics at research and insight agency McCallum Layton, explains what segmentation is, how it works and the pros and cons of different methods. She also reveals how successful segmentation can help companies increase their target audience and inform the development of new products and services.

What is segmentation?
Marketers use segmentation to identify subsets of buyers within a market who share similar needs and display similar buyer behaviour. There are many ways you can segment a group, from demographics and geography to socio-cultural factors and attitudes.

Why segment your data?
The benefits of a successful segmentation can greatly outweigh the time and costs involved in its implementation. Not only does it allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your core customers and their needs, it also helps you identify your most and least profitable customers, which will help to protect and increase revenue. The challenge is identifying the most effective segments.

How does segmentation work?
For the segmentation to be successful the segments need to be relevant and actionable in terms of their number and definition. First, you need to determine the number of segments you’re going to work with. If there are too many, it’s difficult to see what variables discriminate between them; if there are too few, you may lose valuable information about the differences between the segments.

The optimum number of segments will vary for each segmentation strategy; however a good rule of thumb is four or five segments. When deciding on the number of segments to use, marketers need to achieve a balance between the extent of discrimination and the actionability of their segments.

Once you’ve calculated the number of segments you’re going to work with, the next step is to ensure that the segmentation will be effective i.e. that each segment is genuinely different from the others.

First, you need to determine if the segments are large enough to be profitable. Your research findings will help you to quantify how many consumers are in each segment and their size in the market.

The segments must also be actionable – that is, they must allow you to develop an appropriate and unique marketing mix to attract and meet the needs of each individual segment.

Finally, consider whether it”s possible to easily reach all your different segments. To target them effectively the segments need to be linked to information that you already hold or which can easily be acquired – such as location, age, gender and socio-demographics (Mosaic and Acorn).

Tip: Make sure your segments are profitable, actionable and accessible.

How do you start to segment?
Various techniques can be used for segmenting a market but the method adopted usually depends on a trade-off between the cost of undertaking the segmentation versus the level of accuracy you need.

A priori segmentation
This simply uses pre-existing data such as socio, age, gender or geo-demographics to segment the market. However, while these segments are easy to target, they are usually quite crude.

For example, if you segment your market on age then you are assuming that people within the same age band think alike and make the same purchasing decisions, which is an unrealistic assumption.

Tip: Review all the evidence which you already have from previous research and focus on the factors that appear to drive differences in behaviour.

Usage segmentation
Customers are segmented according to their usage/purchase behaviour, such as heavy, medium, light users or buyers. This is a common technique which assumes that different usage patterns reflect underlying differences in needs and attitudes.

The segments are then profiled to establish which demographic variables drive purchase or usage behaviour within each segment.

Financial segmentation for loan use
For example, we carried out a segmentation study for a financial client where we segmented their customer base according to their past, current and further loan usage. This enabled the client to determine which segments were the most loyal, the ones most and least likely to take up product offerings, which segments had competitor products and which competitors they used.

This information was used to create a more effective marketing strategy, based on the information known about the profile of customers who fell into these segments.

Tip: Give the segments memorable names that summarise each segment”s key characteristics.

Attitudinal needs-based segmentation
The most powerful type of segmentation combines usage data with attitudinal research. The aim is to understand how people’s attitudes are linked to their usage and purchasing behaviour.

This is typically the most actionable form of segmentation as it allows you to understand what drives usage as well as which product/service attributes drive overall satisfaction within each segment. The technique for this type of segmentation is called ‘cluster analysis’; it ensures that members in each segment have similar characteristics but the segments differ from one another as much as possible.

We carried out a successful segmentation campaign for a pharmacy chain by creating an attitudinal needs-based segmentation. The segmentation was based on customers’ attitudes towards factors that would influence their choice of pharmacy and their attitudes towards health and lifestyle.

This enabled us to create a segmentation where customers within a segment had similar characteristics and needs yet each segment’s needs and characteristics were very different.

Tip: Use qualitative research prior to the segmentation to help identify all variables that might discriminate between different types of consumers.

Which segmentation method to use
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the segmentation techniques detailed above. While ‘a priori’ segmentations are the simplest to apply and can be based on existing data, making them relatively inexpensive to carry out, they are the most crude and least powerful of the three techniques.

‘Usage’ segmentations are slightly more difficult to undertake, and yet are also relatively low in cost as they too are generally based on existing usage/purchasing data. However, the extra work required is rewarded by the production of a more meaningful segmentation which incorporates additional data over and above basic demographics.

‘Attitudinal needs-based’ segmentations are the most expensive and complicated of the three techniques. They normally involve undertaking a substantial number of usage and attitudinal surveys, which can be costly. The segmentation is based on advanced statistical techniques and is therefore the most difficult of the three techniques to undertake; however it will produce an insightful and powerful segmentation.

While the technique chosen will vary by company, in all cases the overall objective is the same – to identify significant groups of customers with differing needs and to address them effectively in order to protect and increase profits.

Tip: Review the segmentation regularly to reflect any major changes in the industry sector or market.

McCallum Layton Launch New Integrated Online Research Service

UK Research & Marketing Insight Consultancy McCallum Layton has launched a new online service that provides a fully integrated research and insight management solution comprised of three elements:- e-qual; e-quant and The Hub.

e-qual provides a variety of online qualitative research techniques including: focus groups, bulletin boards and bespoke web communities.

e-quant handles web-based and email-based surveys and provides online data analysis tools and reporting.

The Hub is the agency’s insight management portal through which clients can access their projects from anywhere in the world via a secure login.

Duncan McCallum, Founding Partner said “We are committed to providing our clients with additional benefits that will improve their bottom line. Our new service will not only provide clients with greater insight from their research but will also help them manage and disseminate the findings with greater speed and efficiency. Whilst providing clients with online services is not new to our agency, we have greatly enhanced our offering in this area to complement our other research services and solutions. In the last 12 months over 20 major new clients used our services including Greggs, O2, Vimto and Bosch, and we are excited about rolling out further new client services in 2010.”

The Need For Continuous Insight (Special Report)

The current unrelenting economic uncertainty means that the need for continuous insight has never been more pressing. Figures for the third quarter released at the back end of last year showed that the economy contracted by 0.3%, when many pundits were expecting growth. We are experiencing the longest economic contraction in half a century and talk is now about a W-shaped recession. So, what does this have to do with market research? The answer is – everything.

Do you know how your customers are feeling as the situation drags on and on and how it will affect their future behaviour? Do you have detailed plans concerning the development of products/services that you might need to be marketing in six to twelve months time? Instead, wouldn’t it be great if you knew where your market was going and how consumers’ thoughts were being moulded on an almost daily basis? Well, you can, but not if your insight is always gleaned from looking in the rear-view mirror by, for example, undertaking tracking surveys twice yearly as opposed to more frequently. What you have to do is immerse yourself in research on an almost daily basis, formulate numerous scenarios and adapt to the changing circumstances.

Let’s take an example. The majority of the public still view financial institutions with barely disguised hostility. What will happen if bankers’ bonuses unleash another wave of public outcry? Will advertising attempting to portray banks as friends of the consumer have any traction? Furthermore, as a well trusted brand, Tesco’s entry into market could make bigger waves than many think. There is also the danger that a new bank might appear which enshrines in its ethos a sensible and well publicised wage structure for its staff. What financial institutions need is an almost constant update of their customers’ dispositions, and, based on this, a number of alternative plans ready to action when the time comes.

The above is just an example using the financial sector. Think of your own market and there probably are pressing problems which, whilst possibly present before the recession, are now being exacerbated by it; all the time this being accompanied by an accelerating change in your customers’ mind set and behaviour. When challenges do suddenly emerge from the mist you need to have plans in place so you can react immediately. Keeping ahead of the pack is not a question of spending more market research pounds but of thinking ahead and spending them more wisely.

A technique we have found to be particularly fruitful is micro-tracking. For this we recruit a small number of client customers and talk to them every week, by ‘phone, or on-line, and explore their views on what has recently happened in the news, what their family and friends are doing/feeling, how it has affected them and what effects it might have on their future behaviour. We then run larger less detailed surveys every month to check key findings.

Micro-tracking can be supplemented by the creation of an on-line forum or notice board with access provided via a link from your website. Also, look to monitor blogs about your company and your competition, continuously, not just in response to some new marketing activity. In some instances frequently reconvened focus groups provide a rich seam of information concerning the way customers’ thoughts and behaviours are being moulded by events. These techniques can also be supported by analytics to gain even more insight, for example, by the use of ‘what if?’ models and other modelling techniques such as competitor analysis.

The key is to continuously collect and use data from a variety of sources which, when analysed together, provides pointers as to the direction in which your consumers and your market is moving. This data can then be used to formulate a number of possible scenarios each with an ascribed likelihood of occurrence. Armed with this information you will be able act immediately, not six months down the line when it might be too late.

Thinking Ahead

Kate Thompson, Partner and Head of B2B Research at McCallum Layton, explains how business brands can leverage market research in order to position themselves as thought leaders

Consumer-facing organisations and their PRs have been making use of market research to promote their clients’ interests for many years. It is rare that you can open a paper without seeing statistics from ‘a recent survey’ conducted on behalf of one company or another. Whatever we may think of the findings, the fact that the client has bothered to do it says something about their commitment to their market and willingness to invest in their profile.

The large accountancy practices picked up on this marketing technique years ago, and started commissioning research studies on topical themes such as up-coming fiscal or regulatory change, to demonstrate the expertise they could offer in the field in question. Other parts of the B2B sector, though, have been slow to recognise the potential value of this approach.

As part of the marketing toolkit, issue-based or thought leadership research can be one of the most powerful ways to show you have your finger on the pulse of your market and that you have the capacity and knowledge to support existing and potential customers.

The technique is simple – find a theme of topical and relevant interest to your market, commission a research study to collect information on how this affects customers, and use the results to demonstrate your understanding of market needs, showing that customers will be better off coming to you than to your competitors. Here are some pointers to taking best advantage of this potentially valuable idea.

1. First, take your theme …
This is actually the most difficult bit, but the end result can be well worth the time taken to define what issue you can capitalise on. The theme needs to be relevant to your target market and something to which you can add value.

Consult widely in-house and talk to existing customers about what issues are taxing them at the moment and what changes are on the horizon that will affect them, then whittle these thoughts down to a topic on which you can add commentary that will strengthen your market positioning. If it’s controversial, that’s even better (provided you can believe in the stance you are likely to take on the results) – the debate can run and run, quoting your name at every turn.

2. Check what you know already
Having settled on an issue, gather whatever intelligence you already have in-house. The research study will not come free, and there is no point spending money finding out what you already knew. Identify the gaps in your knowledge that you can use the research to fill.

3. Set some time aside
It’s important to make sure you allocate enough time to plan the programme properly. This might be a good ten weeks, depending on what you decide to do.

Care also needs to be taken over the design of the research itself, and there will need to be a well thought through, co-ordinated programme of follow-up communications.

4. Two’s company?
You may want to consider partnering up with another party to undertake the research, such as a trade body, key customer/supplier, the relevant trade press etc. This could bring added credibility to the study, although you may risk losing a degree of control.

5. Don’t cut corners
Ensure that the study methodology, sample size, selection, and wording of the questions etc. will all stand up to scrutiny when you publish the results. When you put your head above the parapet, don’t give competitors or the press an excuse to take shots at your leadership position on the grounds that your study is not robust enough.

6. Think ahead
Most research studies have a finite shelf-life, particularly those designed to address a topical issue. As soon as the results are in, you will need to hit the ground running with a co-ordinated programme of marketing activity to capitalise on what you have gained. Consider how the report itself will be produced, and gear up the most appropriate person/people to add expert commentary to the findings. Draw up a plan as to who you will want to provide the report to (include all respondents who took part in the research itself – this will generate goodwill among those who have taken the time to participate). Build publication of the report into a wider campaign, perhaps including customer seminars on the issues raised, speaking slots at conferences and one-to-one meetings with customers and targets to underline your commitment to them.

Consider releasing highlights to directly relevant media if applicable, but rather than just broadcasting a press release, consider offering exclusives to certain journalists, with briefings on the findings and perhaps case studies around respondents who are prepared to go on record. This can be one of the best ways to promote your business in your target market, but only if you get the message out there effectively.

McCallum Layton Sponsor MBA Award at Bradford University School of Management

This year, for the first time, we sponsored the award for the best MBA Marketing dissertation at Bradford University School of Management, which is the 16th ranked Business School in UK (Financial Times 2009 rankings). The prize, a cheque for £100, was presented by Duncan McCallum, Founding Partner at McCallum Layton at the graduation ceremony on Wednesday 2nd December, to Andrea Musci from Milan. We are delighted to also confirm that we will be sponsoring the prize next year.

Nina Reynolds, Professor of Marketing at Bradford University School of Management said “We are delighted to have McCallum Layton support our MBA and look forward to developing our strategic partnership over the coming years.”

Fitter, Leaner Research (Greater Insight 2009)

Making your research budget stretch further in a recession is easier said than done, but by following a few simple tips, you can make your investment work harder and even enhance the insights gained.

We all know the saying ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. Well, the same is true in getting the best from your insight – numerous small savings add up. Also, by following some simple rules you’ll find that your insight will be fitter, leaner and better directed. Let’s look at some areas where savings can be made.

Before spending any money, email work colleagues to make sure nothing similar has been recently undertaken. It’s not uncommon in companies for similar projects to be commissioned by different departments unbeknown to each other. To overcome this we have set-up client research libraries where a simple word search facility can find relevant material and avoid duplication of effort.
Consider whether data you already hold could be interrogated further to provide the required information. For example, amongst other things, analytics can be used on sales and customer data to build predictive models and segment customer types.
If you have an agency roster, halve it and give twice as much work to each agency. Fewer agencies doing more work will enable them to gain deeper knowledge of your company and markets. It will save time at briefing meetings, lead to more insightful results, and also give you the opportunity to negotiate retrospective discounts based on agreed spending levels.

Rather than giving the project go-ahead over the ‘phone, invite the agency to a meeting; use it to make sure your research is as focused as possible. Discuss potential outcomes, how they might help and to ensure that you squeeze every ounce of worth from the project.

Review the proposed methodology with a critical eye. Would telephone interviews do rather than face-to-face? Could the number of focus groups be halved if, for example, assumptions were made about the effects of limiting the locations sampled? Test these assumptions with a few telephone depths rather than convening full groups to cover every variable. Look for creative methodologies to provide the required information. At McCallum Layton we’ve developed a hybrid qual/quant methodology which runs simultaneously using the same sample; this can lead to substantial savings.

Keep questions focused and tightly worded – stick to the ‘must knows’; eliminate the ‘nice to knows’. Cutting 1 minute from a 5 minute telephone interview can save around 15% (unfortunately not 20% because of set-up costs). Also, do you really need 1,000 interviews when, in most cases, 400 is the optimum sample size. Maybe you could run a biannual tracking survey instead of quarterly one.
Look at your sample structure – the more complex the greater the cost. Do you really need a quota of left-handed grey haired grannies in Kent? Often, it’s easier and cheaper to let numbers fall out naturally and apply weightings to the final data.
If commissioning focus groups, consider whether it’s essential that you attend accompanied by numerous colleagues. Travel and accommodation expenses can be horrendous and nowadays you can view the groups on-line or download a video to your office the next day.

When it comes to the final report, just how detailed does it need to be? Naturally, a 2-3 page summary report of key issues will cost a lot less than a detailed report running to many pages. Instead of hard copies use on-line methods to circulate findings and recommendations; McCallum Layton’s Hub enables clients to log into their own secure area on our server and access a ‘library’ containing virtually everything to do with their project from questionnaire design to data tables. There is even a tool that enables clients to further analyse their data and design their own charts.

The above are just a few pointers, there are many more but unfortunately space constraints prevent me from detailing any more. However, I will end with a few last words of advice; don’t confuse stretching your budget with purchasing cheap research, if you look for cheap research that’s exactly what you’ll get.