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A brand new opportunity has emerged in your small business radar, and it could propel your company at a captivating and rewarding direction. It could be a new product or service line, a group of untapped consumers or even -- keep your voice down now -- a possible merger with a smaller competitor.

Before you get too far ahead of yourself, you know that it's wise to thoroughly vet this opportunity by commissioning a market research report. At a certain point -- probably after your staff has completed gathering the necessary quantitative and qualitative data -- you need to lay out your expectations for your written report. How you approach this task ought to get their blood flow, also.

Issue Three Dictates
If your marketing team is brand new to the task, they're probably going to love your best three directives:

Tell a narrative. Tell a visual narrative, with lots of charts and graphs. Keep it brief.
They may not believe they heard you ; after all, you did say you want a market research report, did not you? And are not most reports long, voluminous and sometimes dull products?

Tell them to make no mistake: you expect a thorough effort that assesses each angle of this new business opportunity. However, there are legitimate reasons that push your directives.

Tell a Story
The most compelling market research reports pivot on a story -- about why this new product or service line holds this claim, why that set of untapped consumers could benefit from the offerings or why that merger could be a smart investment.

Like all good stories, this one may start with an anecdote or concentrate on one individual -- the"main character" -- that could function as the ideal client. Telling the story of your study through her or his eyes, and with plenty of dynamic quotes, should flow directly into how pursuing this new opportunity would progress your business goals. This is a crucial part of the story, also, since the opportunity would not even be worth considering if it did not conform with your company plan.

At this point, you might want to talk to your employees the expertise of a renowned manufacturer of a men's fragrance that was ready to embark on a marketing campaign -- targeted to men. Then the industry research revealed that women, not men, make the majority of these buys, and the finding changed the campaign.

Tell a Visual Story
As much of the qualitative data as possible ought to be consigned to graphs and charts on the market research report, not the actual content that is written. Amounts are easier to read, and evaluate, when they're displayed in a chart rather than tucked into a dense paragraph, where the reader can struggle to interpret their meaning.

This point underscores the following reality about market research reports: you may think it's being written for your benefit and that of your employees. And for today, it could be. Your viewers may also include your business accountant and attorney. However, some day, if it's appropriate, fresh stakeholders may browse the report, too, and charts and graphs will make it easier for them to digest.

Of course, you can always overdo a good thing. Only industry forecast and charts -- or those that advance the fundamental story -- ought to be included in the body of the industry research report. Ancillary information ought to be relegated to the appendix -- which document repository which arrives in the end of a report.

Keep it Brief

By focusing on a compelling story and relying on visuals, your team must find it easier to tackle your third cardinal rule. They should know that you will gauge the value of the effort because of its quality, not the number of pages. (It is up to you if you wish to tell them that many market research reports operate from between 10 and 50 pages.)

Use bullet points when they can.
Challenge each paragraph to the relevancy test. To put it differently, if a paragraph does not advance the basic story, strike it.

You may hesitate to call it an"outline," but you need to convey to your staff which the true value of the report will ride on its organization. So if they don't enjoy the sound of establishing a step-by-step development of the report, then turn them loose on PowerPoint, which will force the issue (in a good way). In the long run, they may decide that this arrangement -- rather than a paper report -- would be the very best one for their findings.



A table of contents. A section on the study objectives. A section on the study methods. An executive overview. Detailed findings also, perhaps, the implications. Told in a dynamic fashion, the intriguing finish ought to get everyone's blood pumping.