Do Less Market Research But Know Much More About Your Customers

Do you always need the market research studies you run?

You might have seen a recent post of mine on LinkedIn where I said how frustrated I am with marketers who start with a survey when they have a question, rather than ending with one.

If you too have this habit, then I want to share how you can do fewer surveys and yet still know much more about your customers. 

Let me start by saying that I am not suggesting that companies don’t run market research. Rather, I am proposing that they don’t conduct a survey before having reviewed their current situation in detail. And in particular, the information that is already available inside the organisation.

In many companies, there is far more information available than people realise. Research shows that 68% of data is not used by businesses who invest in it — that’s over two-thirds of data – and budgets – wasted!

To make optimum use of your resources – time, money, and people – my suggestion is to first gather and analyse what is already available. In this way, any research that is conducted will be far more focused, and usually faster and cheaper too!


In my CATSIGHT™ process for actionable insight development, data gathering is the sixth of the seven steps! If you’d like to learn more about it, then do check out my online course on the topic. In under two hours, you will learn how to easily develop insights that can be immediately put into action.


 

Ten Reasons NOT to Run Market Research

One of my cornerstone posts here, which continues to receive hundreds of views every month is “Ten reasons NOT to conduct market research.” In summary, I advise leaders to avoid surveys:

  1. Where the objectives are not well defined, and the issue or opportunity needs further clarification.
  2. Where the cost of running the survey exceeds its value, especially in how the information will be used.
  3. Where the budget is too small to do an adequate job of information gathering. In this case, corners will be cut, either in terms of the depth of the investigation or in the sample size.
  4. Where the time available to run and report on the project is too short. This is often a problem when new products or communication campaigns are being tested, and there is a delay in their delivery for testing.
  5. That could “tip off” the competition by researching the confidential topic. Obviously running projects on ultra-secret development work is ill-advised unless you carefully control who is interviewed.
  6. Where the findings would not be actionable. Hopefully, this can be avoided by having detailed clarification of the objectives of the study.
  7. That are motivated by internal politics, such as to prove a point, rather than by a need for information.
  8. That are designed to measure trends that progress too slowly or too fast and thus will provide insignificant changes.
  9. Where the agency used to gather the information is unreliable or unethical. This may
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Do Companies Still Benefit From Having a Market Research Department?

What’s your gut response to the title question about Market Research Departments? Yes? No? Being Swiss I would say it depends!

I am probably in the third camp. Yes, if it is a department that integrates and analyses information from multiple sources, and then delivers actionable insights and recommendations to the organisation. No, if it is the traditional market research department, whatever that is.

I first asked this question a few years ago and it generated a lot of – sometimes heated – discussions. Now after so many changes in the past couple of years, I thought it was worth revisiting. Please add your own perspective into the comments below and let’s get those discussions started again.

Thanks to social media and websites, the IoT (Internet of Things) and smart products, companies are inundated with information these days. Who better than market research to help in its analysis? But in order to become this new business decision support group, new skills are required.

Insights 2020 by Kantar-Vermeer ran some interesting research into the future of market research and insights. In their report, they spoke about the need for researchers to have five critical capabilities:

  • Research & analytics mastery
  • Business acumen
  • Creative solution thinking
  • Storytelling
  • Direction setting

The fieldwork is now a few years old but I still think it makes good background reading to make companies think about their own needs in terms of data analysis. Also, the world and business environment has changed dramatically in the last eighteen months.

Another study by BCG and GRBN resulted in an Invest in Insights Handbook to help organisations report on the ROI of the insights function. They reported that those who measure the ROI of their information have found a seat at the decision table, increased budgets, and more control. Those are the department objectives that the FMCG world in particular desires today, be they in a manufacturing or retail environment.

As the handbook mentions:

“Architecting a world-class Insights organization requires executive, cross-functional commitment/engagement”

To do this, the report mentions the following six points:

  • Vision & Pace
  • Seat-at-the-table and leadership
  • Functional talent blueprint
  • Ways of working with the Line
  • Self-determination
  • Impact and truth culture

The analysis concludes that:

“The biggest barriers to experimenting with innovation in CI are resources, both time and money. A lot of times there’ll be [a need for] an innovation project but it can’t find a home.”

Invest in InsightsThis seems to suggest, at least to me, a chicken and egg situation. Resources are insufficient because the business doesn’t see the benefit of investing in market research and insight development. But the Market Research Department is struggling with insufficient budget and personnel to provide the support that they should – and often could – provide.

In the GRBN report, they mention the largest barriers to the measurement of the ROI of market research and insight. These were found to be:

  • Difficult to do – studies are used in many different ways
  • Difficulty in isolating impact of consumer insights
  • Time
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Ten Reasons Why You Should NOT Conduct Market Research

If you commission or conduct market research, then this post is a must-read. It shares ten important reasons I have learnt over the years for NOT running a market research project, but which are unfortunately still prevalent today. Which, if any, are you guilty of? Leave your comments below – I dare you!

 

#1. WHEN THE ISSUE / OPPORTUNITY IS NOT CLEAR AND THE OBJECTIVES ARE NOT WELL DEFINED

Most organisations will have a briefing of some sort, written or oral, for each piece of research that is required. It usually includes the background to and the objectives of the project. These should be specified in terms of the opportunity or issue identified, as well as the relevant information and data already gathered and analysed.

If the briefing doesn’t include these basic elements, it might mean that someone wants to know or understand something and just thought research could quickly provide them with the answers. Wrong! The best studies come from a thorough situation analysis which should include a complete review of all current knowledge and past research findings.

[bctt tweet=”The best MR studies come from a thorough situation analysis which should include a complete review of all current knowledge & past research findings. #MRX #CustomerUnderstanding” username=”Denysech”]

 

#2. WHEN THE COST WOULD EXCEED THE VALUE OF DOING THE RESEARCH

Following on from the above point, when requesting a study, if the objectives are well defined, then the decisions and actions resulting from the findings should be clear. If they are, then the expected benefit of the information to be gathered will be evident.

Thinking about how you will use the data and information gathered is one of the best ways to estimate the true value of a piece of research. If the decisions and actions to be taken cannot be clearly expressed, then the research results will be just “nice to know” and not “need to know”. It also suggests that the objectives have not been well defined and I would suggest you revise them before continuing.

 

#3. WHEN THE BUDGET IS TOO SMALL TO DO AN ADEQUATE JOB

Most agencies would agree that clients often want a top-class work, but at a lower price than it would cost. Some clients even make a point of negotiating all prices downwards on principle. But this is a bad and futile habit. Their reputation soon goes before them. Agencies will then start adding an amount that they will remove in answering the client’s request for a cost reduction. If an agency is to become a true partner then transparency is one of the foundations, in both directions.

A second example of this aspect of cost is when a client wants to do research but doesn’t have an adequate budget to cover it. They may be tempted to request something “quick and dirty”. My recommendation to any agency who received such a request would always be to refuse to get involved. If it is worth doing it is worth doing … Click to continue reading

Does your Organisation Really Need a Market Research Department? And in the Future?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about New Marketing; how communication is now all about engagement, how the consumer is boss and such like.

But there has been very little said about a New Market Research Department! If you’re concerned by this situation, whether you work in marketing, market research or a completely different area, then read on for some thoughts on how this situation can and must change.

Earlier this year I wrote about the future of market research / insight departments and what researchers need to do within their organisation to improve their image and perceived value. This week I want to take a wider look at the profession in general. 

 

Current Perception of Market Research

According to  Wikipedia, Marketing is “The process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers” The definition of  Market Research is “Any organized effort to gather information about markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy”.

What is interesting in comparing these two definitions is the difference in appreciation of the value to business of the two. Marketing is said to be a “critical function”, whereas Market Research is said to be “very important”. Perhaps this is why Market Research Departments continue to be hammered, their budgets are constantly under pressure and their value to the business is questioned.

Well, things are about to change, or at least there is an opportunity for this, if researchers take up the incredible chance offered to them in today’s world of information (over?) abundance. You can’t continue to do the same old same old when marketing, and more importantly the consumer, is clearly on the move.

 

What Business gets from Market Research

I think that one of the biggest problems that Market Research has (continues to have) is that Marketing and Management in general, find it too complex. What is often delivered from market research, BY researchers,  tends to be numbers and findings, not underst anding, insight and recommendations.

We no longer need market research to share the numbers and information today. More and more often, these are coming automatically into companies from an ever-growing number of sources, and a lot of it is even in real-time, something market research results never were! Think sensors on products, GPS on smart phones, retail purchases with debit / credit / loyalty cards, social media interactions …. DataShaka recently wrote in their The Lab an interesting perspective on data management and information sources which you might want to check out.

That’s a lot of data; indeed Aaron Zornes, chief research officer of The MDM Institute, was recently quoted in Information Management as saying that “a typical large company with (has) 14,000 or so databases on average”. And most of that data will be just sitting around in IT storage systems, rarely reviewed and even … Click to continue reading

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