Focus Groups Save Spider-Man!
In last year’s cliffhanger episode of “Can a Focus Group Save Spider-Man?” we pondered whether market research was powerful enough to save a Broadway show from doom and destruction. After crushing reviews from theater critics, the producers hired a market research firm to help them rewrite the show.
Guess what? It worked. Since the show re-opened in June, it is regularly among the top five earners among Broadway shows, and The Hollywood Reporter reports that in December it “set a new record for a single-week box office gross, raking in $2,941,794 for the week ending January 1.”
In a year when Steve Jobs’ quip that “it’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want” has been used to bludgeon market research, we see research doing a pretty good job identifying buyers’ needs and helping decision makers address those needs in smarter ways.
It is true that consumers can’t answer questions like, “What show do want us to produce next?” or “What great technological innovation would be most useful to you?” But they certainly can tell you want they want, and the art of research is to ask just the right questions to give you enough insight about what to do next. Here are three things you can ask about, and that audiences, customers, and prospects will happily tell you:
1. What is important to them and what they care about. Insights about what matters to buyers will help you design your product or service and will provide deep insight about how to market it.
2. What their frustrations are and what is not working. Most consumers are eager to critique products and services that fail to meet their needs, which highlights the opportunities for new solutions.
3. How good or bad your idea is. There are lots of ways to test concepts, products, and ideas, and survey research is remarkably good at predicting winners versus losers.
The lesson from Spider-Man is that it does not take superhuman powers to fix a flawed strategy nor off-the-charts creative genius to make a good product sell. A thoughtful effort to ask questions and to listen to your customers is sometimes all it takes to turn harrowing encounters with goblins into success.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.