"What is your research process?" Is a question I get asked a lot, and the answer is, "It depends."
It depends on the client's process, where they are in that process, their budget, what their product does, who their product is for ... Seriously, it depends. Let's discuss what services you might need from when you have that great idea to when it has already been on the market for a while.
Congratulations! You have a great idea.
Exploration - Who is the market for your idea? Is there enough of a market to make your idea viable? Are there other markets that you haven't considered?
This is where market research is helpful. Maybe you want to send out a survey to get a sense of market size and price sensitivity or get the demographics and psychographics of your audience. We can also do some secondary research of your plan to enter into an established market.
Discovery - How can the idea best serve the target market?
Once you have a basic idea of who your target market is, it may be time to use focus groups, in-depth interviews, or ethnographic research to learn more about what they need and how the idea will fit in their world. This will inform your product and your market strategy.
User research and market research skills overlap heavily in this phase.
Development - Traditional, agile, lean, or sprint, you're going to want to use your research.
This is where the ideation, development, user test, and reiteration cycle resides. You will be basing the ideas for your product on the research you did in the Exploration and Discovery phases. Then you will develop a prototype and user test that prototype to make certain it is intuitive and works in all of the ways it should.
If kinks are found in the user test, you will go back to ideation to find ways around those issues and begin the cycle again until you are confident enough to launch the product.
Prelaunch - What message do you communicate about the product and how do you send it?
Usually this is where you would conduct focus groups to find find the right brand position within the context of your competitors and messaging that will be the most effective with your target market. What truly makes your product unique and worth it for your potential customers to disrupt their normal routine in favour of trying your new product? Where and how will your target market be most receptive to your message?
We may also do a survey to see if the findings from the focus groups truly resonate with the greater population. It's always nice to have a little extra validation if you can afford it.
Still unsure? Is this a different version of an existing product? How about an A/B test to see if it performs better than the existing version or campaign?
Launch - How is the marketing performing?
Find out if you are building enough awareness of your brand and/product. Where are your sales coming from and why? Is your advertising campaign performing as expected? How do you track your marketing effectiveness?
Are you doing a controlled release to a group of alpha testers? How is that going? Are you getting regular feedback from them?
Post-Launch - How is the idea performing?
Much like the launch phase, this is a lot of monitoring and analytics. What information can you get from the help desk logs? What are the purchase and usage patterns of your product? Do the try it once and forget about it or are you getting sustained usage over time? Why or why not?
Repeat - Back to development. What do you do with the feedback?
Your idea has been on the market long enough to receive useful feedback or maybe you have to go out amongst your users to do some qualitative or quantitative research to find out what they think, how satisfied they are with your product, and what can be done to improve the experience.
This information can be taken back to the development team so that they can do the development cycle all over again before launching the next version of your idea.