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Crafting a research brief

Pithy, or protracted… What’s the ideal when writing a research brief?

Tuesday 24th October. Lisa Barker, Insight Manager, former client-side research buyer and longest standing member of the Researchcraft team shares her experience on how to write a research brief - one of the most important steps when commissioning any form of market research.


We all love the thrill of receiving a new brief and the opportunity to find creative solutions to answer our clients’ questions, but what sets a good brief apart from a bad one? When putting together a brief, what should you include to make sure you get the best proposal and solution from us in return? 

Based on years of experience and thousands of briefs later, here are some dos and don’ts to help guide clients through the process!

Do write a brief

Putting your thoughts on paper is always helpful for both parties (it doesn’t always happen!). Answering even some of the questions below will ultimately result in the best research solution being created. A call or meeting can be a valuable part of the process; no party should be second guessing what the other needs from the get-go.

Do share background information

Especially if you haven’t worked with a specific agency before. An agency will (naturally) conduct its own research, but providing information on sector, market size, technical terms and trends, will always be very helpful. Importantly, share what you already know, so that the proposed research adds fresh value and does not duplicate insights that are already understood. If the project is about a new product or service then the more information around it the better and this includes any third-party design agencies, brand consultants and/ or packaging specialists etc. who are also involved in the project.

Do share objectives

Sharing both business and research objectives are equally important but there is a big difference between the two. While business objectives set a clear plan to achieve longer-term company goals, research objectives describe what a research project should achieve (i.e. relevant insights and data), to be able to support the business objectives. Business objectives should focus on what business problem(s) are you trying to overcome, or what outcome the business needs to achieve? While research objectives may include questions such as what insight do you want to gain? What specific questions that need to be answered? Is there a market for my product is x country? Which pack will work harder on shelf? Why are sales of my product falling?

Do identify your target audience

Be it customers, non-customers or lapsers. If it’s your customers, what proportion of the market do they account for? Do you have a database and can you share contacts? The more information shared, the more accurate costing will be. But if the scope of the sample is still undecided, the expertise of the agency will ensure a solution relevant to all audiences.

Do identify your project stakeholders

It’s helpful to know at the outset who needs to be part of the process and what their involvement in the project is. Getting them on board before the brief is finalised is a crucial part of the process, but project timings also need to be managed to ensure their input at critical stages.

Do state the project scope

Scope is the part of a project where specific project goals, deliverables, costs and deadlines are determined. It sets the project boundaries, details responsibilities to team members and details what deliverables the project will provide. But if you’re not sure, don’t worry! As a minimum you will need to know whether you want to understand a problem or quantify it (or both). Be super clear about things that are non-negotiable (for example a reporting deadline or maximum budget) and what is potentially open to recommendations. Remember that each project is unique. A solution will be created with a methodology that best meets your business & research needs, tailored exactly to your requirements.

Don’t forget about stimulus (if relevant)

Most importantly – what format is the stimulus in and when is it going to be available? If it is subject to long lead times/ safety clearance protocols or other procedures, this must be factored into project timings and costs. Cancelling fieldwork because stimulus isn’t available can be a costly business but easily avoided with careful planning.

Do or Don’t share the budget

The big question… But be transparent. This will avoid a Tesla solution being proposed when actually, all what’s required is a Prius one. Budgets are being stretched, but with the right investment, valuable insight can be derived from which sound business decisions can be made. More often than not, a programme will be developed to tackle your business objectives that will be scalable, so provide the choice between something that will do the job effectively, versus one that might enable a bit more nuance, detail and understanding to be gained. 


So, when faced with a business challenge that could benefit from the insight market research can provide, whether pithy or prolonged, your research agency will appreciate you more for sharing any of the above.

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Crafting a research brief