In Business, How Much Research Is Enough?

Posted by Michael Clark on January 22, 2013

Daniel Day Lewis is playing Abraham Lincoln in a new movie, and I can’t help but wonder if he uses a quote we like to share around the office: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll use the first four sharpening my axe.”

All too often we hear a great question in the business community: How much research do I need before I know when to start my strategic plan? Typically, the answer involves investigating your available resources, staffing, expertise, time restrictions, aptitude, willingness to pay and your campaign life-cycle.

Marketing studies indicate that on average, companies spend approximately 1.2 percent of sales annually on market research. For your communications objective, this could mean as much as 10 percent of your overall campaign budget. How do you determine if 1.2 percent of sales or 10 percent of budget is enough? Think about asking these questions first:

  • What is the problem or question?
  • What is the ultimate end objective?
  • What is available in industry-relevant literature?
  • What is the purpose of the study?
  • What are the clear terms and concepts?
  • Who is the audience?

After obtaining the answers to these questions, you’ll have a sharp axe and be ready to clear the path -- collect and analyze the data with confidence in the research. Lincoln also said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” This also helps identify when you have enough research.

If you conduct research for your firm, company or organization, how do you know when you have enough research? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.