Bredin Report: Q&A – When is Agile Research Appropriate?

In a recent Bredin Fastcast, Bredin CEO Stu Richards spoke with founder and president Alice Bredin about the benefits of agile research for actionable SMB insight. This lightly edited recap provides an overview of the value of agile research in product and creative development, as well as for PR, content, SEO, event and sales support campaigns.

ALICE BREDIN: What’s an example of a qualitative research situation where agile research would be appropriate?

STU RICHARDS: One example would be product development. Say your company is developing new SaaS application and you want to make sure that the implementation is intuitive or the functionality is useful. Instead of relying on your teams’ opinions of what is most useful or effective, agile research gives you quick real-world feedback with specific usability tests, such as whether buttons are easy to find or the functionality is on target.

BREDIN: Do you have a quantitative example?

RICHARDS: Sure. Agile research can be great for getting data to incorporate into news articles. For example, say the Federal Reserve raises interest rates by three-quarters of a percent and you want to know the impact on SMBs. You could conduct a quick survey of 300 to 500 SMBs and get feedback in only two weeks. This data can be turned into content such as an infographic or research report, which can help you gain media coverage.

BREDIN: Is agile good for creative development?

RICHARDS: Yes. If you’re about to launch a new campaign, you can test messaging or creative to see if it connects with business owners and makes sense to them. You can ask if they prefer message A to message B, or whether the copy makes them more inclined to like the brand or make a purchase. If you develop three different creative approaches for a particular campaign, the first agile survey might say version one is most effective. Then, you might want to combine elements of the other two approaches, and test them together in a second test to see how the revised creative works. You can maximize the impact of your creative without delaying the launch of your campaign.

BREDIN: So agile research can be iterative?

RICHARDS: Yes, that’s one of the great things about it. Agile research doesn’t have to be just a one-off initiative. If you want to track something like general business outlook, hiring plans, or really anything over time, agile is a great way to do that. You can conduct a regular short survey of, say, 10 questions every quarter to keep your finger on the pulse of your market without much effort or cost.

BREDIN: What are the limitations of agile research?

RICHARDS: One caveat about agile is that you’re trading off detail for speed. If you want to understand how to best segment customers or create clusters for modeling, agile isn’t the best format, because it’s meant to address a focused topic in a short period of time. Likewise, in-depth brand research requires a longer questionnaire than agile is suited for. If, for example, you wanted to conduct understand brand sentiment among IT decision makers in multiple countries or industries, traditional quantitative research would be more effective.

BREDIN: Is agile a good fit for sales claims research?

RICHARDS: Agile can be a great fit for sales claims research, if it is easy to get to your customer base. If you have a panel of customers readily available, and you have specific questions about things like user experience, onboarding, or productivity gains, agile will be great for that. But you may want to check in with your legal department, to see what their criteria are for sample size and customer claims.

BREDIN: Can agile help with SEO?

RICHARDS: Yes. You can ask respondents questions on the types of long-tail search terms they are likely to use. Or you may want to test new terms with a small set of respondents rather than running tests with Google, to validate that you are using the right terminology in the meta descriptions and title tags for your website. And, of course, you can use agile to generate data for quick-turn content to support your search efforts.

BREDIN: How do you decide if agile is right for you?

RICHARDS: There are a number of factors. How quickly do you need insight? Do you need frequent ongoing research? Is cost a consideration? Agile is generally less expensive, because you are talking with fewer people and the scope is narrow. But if you want to do segmentation or price testing, a longer more comprehensive research project may be what you need.

Need help understanding and/or engaging SMBs? Bredin can help keep you up to date on evolving SMB needs and challenges through quick-turn, actionable market research. We can also help you develop high value content and social media posts to boost SMB awareness, brand perception, leads, conversion and revenue.

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About Bredin

Bredin was founded in 1991 by America's foremost small business expert, author and syndicated columnist Alice Bredin. From its beginning, Bredin was designed to be a breed apart: 50% research consultancy, 50% creative agency, 100% focused on SMB. Based in Somerville, Mass., Bredin helps Fortune 500 companies understand, reach and retain SMB customers through timely, targeted research and award-winning marketing programs.