My 11-year-old daughter recently purchased (with her own money) a paint-by-number set. It was a fairly complex illustration of a golden retriever (who happened to look just like our dog Gracie). There were 10 different paint colors; each assigned its own special number. It was hard to tell at the start exactly what the end result might look like.
In many ways, this paint-by-number set reminds me of landscaping research. Even though you have a blueprint in place, you rarely know exactly what the final picture looks like until you finish painting all the numbers.
Recently, one of our major clients came to me with a landscaping challenge. She wanted to understand how the U.S. retail market-space was being impacted by online purchases. She knew internet purchases were on the rise, but did not understand how brick-and-mortar retailers would co-exist with their online counterparts. Moreover, she did not know how traditional retailers would fair against new competitors in the internet retailing space, like Amazon.com and eBay.
We started by identifying learning needs to define the landscape:
We then crafted a survey for capturing the information needed (in much the same way my daughter's initial diagram provided her with a blueprint for creating the painting).
You might think that creating the survey is the hardest part of a landscaping project. It isn't even close!
Our greatest challenge is actually executing the survey correctly. Much like my daughter has to paint within the lines (or the colors run all over the place), landscaping research also requires you to "paint within the lines" by ensuring appropriate representation of the market tested - in this case, the U.S. population.
Ensuring market representation is much easier said than done - particularly when you are working with thousands of respondents and using nested Census-based quotas to keep ethnic, age, gender, income and region quotas in-line with the U.S. population overall. There is no easy way to make this happen; it requires much due diligence and attention to detail. Fortunately, this is an area where KS&R excels!
Once the results were in, we were able to finalize a portrait of the market itself - how our client's retail brand/value proposition performs vis-a-vis the competition, which categories are strong and weak, and where/how internet retailing is likely to impact the business moving forward. We delivered the results with certainty because we had taken the time to do it right (painting within the lines to ensure appropriate representation).
At the end of this project, our client felt we had created a valuable tool that her business team would use over the next 2-3 years as foundational learning for building strategies and moving the business forward. It was a masterpiece (just like my daughter's picture)!