Market Research can really be fun and interesting!

How can I make the topic of Market Research so interesting that it compels you to read this article till the end?

I mean let’s face it reading about Marketing Research (MR) is about as interesting as watching paint dry! And Market Research is for well… researchers right?  Not true.

Market research is one more weapon in the Marketing leader’s arsenal that when properly used can make a big difference.

In my ongoing attempt to make Marketing fun yet useable in your day-to-day activities let’s start with a few definitions:

First, textbook definition of Marketing Research (MR);
Systematic design, collection, analysis and reporting of data and findings relevant to a specific marketing situation facing the company.
Ok, no revelations here but I like the word systematic – more on that later.

Not all MR firms are created equal. You should know that there are different types of research firms to help you:

1) Specialty-line marketing research firms: These are the ones that conduct Field interviewing services.

 
2) Syndicated-service research firms: Such as Mercury Research, TNS Gallup, Business Monitor. They prepare industry wide studies (ex. Omnibus) that any players in a particular industry can buy and get a barometer of what is happening.

 
3) Custom marketing (or bespoke) research firm: Examples like IDC Research. With these firms you can ask to find out any information you want, for example “How many pickles per week do obese teenagers consume in Cluj (silly example to make a point). On a more serious note, I was involved in a research project where we had to determine how many large telecoms operators (Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, etc) would use a fiber optic cable for data purposes if it was deployed across Russia (hint: that is a pretty long, expensive cable and a bit tough to install in some frozen parts of Russia).

 
Primary Vs. Secondary data (Marketing buzz words): That one is easy.  Primary data is when you plan to get information through a research firm; this data is paid for, confidential and remains yours. Secondary data can be found on the www and is also referred to as “Desk research” since its free available information on a particular topic (article, white papers, industry reports, etc).
Marketers collect primary data in 4 main ways:
1) Observation. Xerox used to film users to see how easy it was to find the “print” button on a copier machine. Ever notice why the “print “button is big and green now?

 
2) Focus groups (also referred as qualitative data) .This is cool and I strongly suggest that if you are NOT in Marketing that you participate as a listener behind the two way mirror. Essentially a moderator interviews 6-8 people (paid to attend and to give their opinions) to discuss their views on a products. In many case INSIGHTS  are revealed which is another  MR tool. I call these insights the A-HA! moments. The A-HA ! moment is when you hear a customer describe a situation or need from your product or service that you had not realized in the past – sort of a new way to use your product in everyday use.

 
3) Surveys, referred logically as quantitative data. Normally sample sizes are approximately 1200 people with an interviewer conducting a face to face interview or at times using a computer (CATI) or the web to interview people to get their opinions.

 
4) Behavioral data. Tesco in the UK through their card memberships and store scanning data can develop a campaign to get you back in the store and buy something based on your  past consumption behavior – that is a really cool too.
OK, so I’ve described some of the basic tools and concepts.

 
Here is where I get the attention of both Marketers and non Marketers:
There are times when Market Research cannot /will not help you:
1)    “Analysis Paralysis”. You spend too much time on getting/reading/digesting the data that you cannot make a decision. You often hear ”Well I don’t  know… after all the research told us that we should not go into this business or market “. Solution: Use the research for what it is; additional information about the market and opinions of users. Remember research does not make decisions, leaders make decisions!

 

2)    Poor framing of the problem. What was the purpose of research in the first place? Anybody who was read the story and fiasco of New Coke knows that the researchers “asked the wrong question” (see Exponential Marketing, Paul Garrison). It was not a matter of asking if people wanted to change the taste of Coca-Cola but rather asking people what Coke represented for them. Because they were asking the wrong questions this lead to a dramatic change in their strategy and almost killed Coke in the process.

 
My suggestion is here is that you need to really sit down and frame the problem carefully. I tell my clients (CMOs) to invest the time in preparing and getting involved in the brief. Only from there can you define a proper brief for the MR firm to get the data you need.
When you invest this time at the outset, you become crystal clear as to what you want and this makes it easier for the research company to find the answers you seek. Besides a few minutes in brief preparation time can avoid damage control in hours/days of research that comes back meaningless (and costly).

 
3)    Poor execution. OK you found the best research method, the MR firm and you have spent time preparing the brief.  Then the results come in and your  MR team tells you with a great deal of pride…”look at all the important data” as they plop the research on your desk. You have a natural interest to read it and you think to yourself ‘Hold on here…what are the conclusions?” Once again the team tells you …”Well look at the Executive summary”!

 
The next logical question you need to ask the team as a leader is SO WHAT?
The team has to understand that just getting the job done technically is only a part of the execution. They need to read/ understand/process and suggest to the Marketing leader what the company needs to do next. Now that is what I call value add and empowering the team.
Suggestion: Tell the MR team that they have to “live” and understand this new information so much that they have to defend or confirm the direction that this new data is implying.
If they cannot defend the direction then this means a) they have not been empowered to do so or b) they feel that their job as a research team has been completed. In both case this is the wrong answer.

 
I promised you earlier that I would come back to the word “systematic”. All that means is that you have 1) a method, 2) the MR resources, 3) your involvement, 4) uncovered insights or A-Ha moments, 5) a plan to execute.
Market Research seems terribly simple to a point where you may feel to put it on Auto-pilot.

However the more time you invest in it, the more you get out of it. At one point when you discover that cool A-HA! moment that can seemingly kill your competitor you will look back and say to yourself…”You know Market Research was fun after all”.
Did I convince you?

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