The role and place of research in a business

Research is a science on its own. For this reason we very often complicate the task and content of research. This can discourage people from participating in research studies or even from giving their honest opinions on the questions posed.

However, research offers us the opportunity to analyse and interpret consumer behaviour.  It is grounded in a random sample of the whole (also called the universe). For this reason it is essential to select the target audience carefully and to word the questions appropriately.

Research ought to be the departure point of our decision-making, as any product or service adjustment or evaluation has an impact on our clients. Indeed we develop products and services to resolve their needs and problems.

Research can also be used to acquire useful information on a wide variety of subjects. A few general usages are the following:

  • to know who the competition for your business is and what their value proposition is, as well as their competitive advantages
  • to evaluate the viability of a new product/service
  • to find new niche markets for products or services
  • to assess the service that your business delivers

Ideally-speaking we should formulate a single “open” question. When people are offered the opportunity to give their frank opinion or feedback; namely, without answers provided as options, we obtain valuable feedback and insights from respondents. There is, however, also place and scope for the use of structured research methodology.

A few examples of “open” questions for obtaining feedback from existing clients are:

  • What is your service experience of ………. (the name of your business)?
  • How can …….. (the name of your business) improve our service to clients?
  • What can ………… (the name of your business) do to ensure that you become a regular client of our business?

There are certain guidelines that can be followed to ensure a statistically grounded research outcome. With 350 responses it will already be possible to observe certain trends in the feedback.

Neil Armstrong once said: “Research is creating new knowledge.” Use research to gain better insight regarding who your clients are and how their thinking and frame of reference meshes.  It takes a little intellectual work, but the results can have a real impact on the decisions that we take.


The content in this article was provided by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market. Sanlam is a diversified financial services group, headquartered in South Africa, operating across a number of selected global markets.

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