Best-fit Research: Optimizing Informed Decision-Making

By Heather Mackay

Good data can empower business decision-making in a variety of ways. Whether it’s to track trends, inspire messaging, define or size target market(s), test new products, or just get an objective viewpoint.

But with so many options currently available, how do you determine which is the best data solution for your organization?

The best-fit path to insights largely depends on the strategic business questions being asked. Having a solid understanding of what each type of research method is supposed to do for you is a good start toward getting reliable answers.

Another important distinction to understand when deciding on the best-fit research approach is the difference between primary and secondary data:

  • Primary/Custom Data: Typically unknown or non-existent, often driven by the need for innovation insights that require a new study to obtain.
  • Secondary Data: Already exists independent of current business or research objectives (e.g., census data, purchase transactions, data warehousing/tracking services, etc.).

Let’s take a step back from nerding out with the technical terminology and break it down in more relatable terms. We’ll use a scenario that many of us, often regrettably, have direct experience with: online dating.

The weird and wonderful world of shopping online for a partner usually starts with downloading a dating app and checking out readily available options that instantly populate the screen. A few swipes left or right, a little light conversation here and there, and you start to get a better sense who might be legit contenders.

Once this first layer of “screening” has occurred, meeting in-person to reveal richer, more reliable information firsthand (for better or worse) is often the next step. These activities are qualitative interview methods, exploring a range of possibilities with no commitment to anything too specific.

After a couple of less than inspiring dates and an increase in catfishing bots offering you a job in the lucrative world of essential oils (this is the best-case scenario), many of us start to feel that the “total viable market” is a bit much to deal with. Filtering profiles based on age, education, political affiliation, religion, or special interests can help narrow the playing field to more desirable prospects.

Defining and sizing your target market based on specific pre-determined criteria that will likely increase your chances of finding a good prospect is a quantitative process.

But let’s not stop there! Scanning over Facebook profiles (secondary mixed method), running a background check (secondary quant data), and asking friends for their opinions (primary peer eval qualitative interview) are all data gathering resources that can help inform the decision-making process on who to date…especially if a potential match is already asking you for a place to crash “just for a few days”.

Triangulating between multiple methods to make an informed decision is one approach. But which specific method(s) should be used depends on your organizations’ questions, goals, timing and budgetary needs.