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How to Write a Good Market Research Report
by Enrique De Argaez, MBA, PE

After you have done your Market Research work, you have to write a report. However, the best research can get put aside without being read. Following are a few tips for writing a good Market Research Report that you can be proud of.

The first thing you have to do is to get your reader's attention with a powerful headline and a good opening summary. If you fail to get your prospects' attention, you will fail to communicate and deliver the benefits of your research.

Always remember that if your report is not read and action taken, your company will receive no benefits from all the research that you have done, and that's a pretty darn shame. But if you do the report right, you are probably about 70 percent of the way to a promotion. So read on and pay attention.

The trick is writing a research report that will grab the reader's attention without allowing his or her mind to wander even for a second. Or worse: Making a copy mistake that turns her or him off entirely -- and gets your research report instantly tossed into the nearest virtual or literal trash can.

In a very real sense, your body copy is a minefield that must be navigated with the greatest of care: Every word, every sentence and paragraph of body copy represents the chance to either intensify your prospect's focus ... or to completely lose him.

But take care, in long research reports -- the headline and opening summary represent only about 4 percent of the total volume of the report copy required. There's a lot of pages where you can loose your reader's attention. Lose him, even for a split second, and you've probably lost him -- and your promotion -- for good!

There are three unforgivable sins that you must be aware of and avoid when writing your report. Avoid the following three unforgivable sins when crafting your research report:

1) Do not confuse your reader...
2) Do not bore your reader, and
3) Do not set off his BS detector...

By following the seven simple rules below, you can avoid all three dangers and produce a top quality Market Research Report:

Rule Number 1: Keep Your Report Logically Organized.

Humans are NOT logical animals. But when reading or learning, they generally require that the material be presented in a clear, logical way. That generally means starting at point "A" ... progressing to point "B" ... moving on to point "C" ... and so on, until you have reached your ultimate conclusion.

To do that, you must build your case logically and methodically -- much like a mason builds a brick wall. You must lay a solid foundation of research and then build upon each completed analysis argument with the next ... brick by brick ... in a logical order, proving your research points.

Ask yourself, "What must my reader know first ... second ... third ... and so on, in order to conclude that this research offers the opportunity of a lifetime?"

Rule Number 2: Keep the Report Moving.

When a reader's eyes first fall upon your report, a little stopwatch starts ticking in his head. If at any point, he feels you're not moving along quickly enough, you will lose him.

Creating a dynamic flow of information in your research report is absolutely essential for maximum readability. There are three ways to do it ...

A) Creating and following a "chain of logic" outline helps a lot in this regard -- by ensuring that you make each point once, then move on. If prospects feel like you're going back over stuff you already covered, any sense of momentum you may have established is instantly destroyed.

B) Check the momentum of each draft by reading it aloud. Mark the places where you -- as a reader -- begin to become distracted or bored. Once again, highlight any sections that begin to lose you. Each of these sections will kill readership and response if they're still there in the final draft. Edit them or delete them.

C) Making each section of copy shorter than the one before is a great way to create momentum. For example -- let's say you have to make ten analysis points in order to complete the report. You could spend 1 1/2 pages making your first analysis ... 1 page making your second ... 3/4 of a page making your third ... 1/2 page making your fourth ... and then wrap up the final six points in a series of bullets covering a single page.

Rule Number 3: Keep Your Report Simple.

Never ask your prospect to work in order to figure out what you're saying. Two-dollar words, esoteric references and complex sentences are killers in research reports. Subtlety, nuance and complexity are for poets -- NOT market reports!

Try to limit yourself to one complete, clearly presented thought per sentence. When you connect two thoughts in a sentence, make sure they connect directly and clearly with each other. Also be sure to avoid inserting undeveloped or underdeveloped thoughts in sentences or paragraphs. They're like little boobytraps in the report. They stop readers cold.

Rule Number 4: Keep the Report Fat-Free.

Readers should feel as though they're getting good value in return for the number of words they're made to read. Your challenge is to never use three words when two will do the job. Here are four ways to say more with less:

A) Use more precise word choices: When you fail to use the word that most precisely and accurately communicates a thought, you wind up using five, six or even ten words instead. When searching for the most precise word, checking synomyms in a thesaurus often gives you the answer.

B) Eliminate unnecessary words: Here again, reading copy aloud really helps. Much of the time, for example, the word "that" is totally unnecessary. When in doubt, leave it out!

C) Avoid unhelpful repitition: Repetition of key sales points -- a USP or major benefit, for example -- is a beautiful thing. Repeating minor thoughts only slows the copy and bores the reader.

D) Figures of speech can help you say more, faster: If a pictures is worth a thousand words, metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech are as well.

Rule Number 5: Keep Your Report Believable.

Your reader is already skeptical. Making grandiose claims that you can't (or don't) prove beyond the shadow of a doubt will only confirm what he or she already suspects: That you're full of beans. And this will get your promotion trashed in a heartbeat.

Rule Number 6: Keep Your Report Potent.

One of the fastest ways to lose your prospect's attention is to fail to focus on his favorite subject: HIM or HER! The word "You" has been called the most powerful word in the English language -- and for good reason. Finding ways to personalize the report -- applying each passage as if had been written for the reader -- is a key to keeping his attention.

Rule Number 7: Avoid Unintended Impressions.

Here's where insisting that friends read your report can pay huge dividends. By the time you're ready to stick a fork in your new promotion, you can almost recite it word for word -- frontwards and backwards. That means you're too close to the report to catch things that may be misread ... even things that may raise objections or implant an erroneous impression in your reader's mind.

Bottom line: Your research report is only as strong as its weakest link. And that makes it essential to get downright obsessive about every word, every turn of phrase, every jot and tittle. Anything that could confuse or bore your prospect or set off his BS detector must be addressed. If that means reading the entire draft aloud to yourself or someone else, so be it. If it means showing it to five, ten or 20 friends, that's cool too.

Yes ... it takes work. But do it right, and the rewards can be truly spectacular.

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