What You May Need Is Marketing, Not Market Research
One of the most powerful pieces of advice our clients sometimes hear is to stop researching and start marketing. In fact, a client told us yesterday that our presentation of findings last year was good, useful, impressive . . . all that. But it was when we said, “Stop worrying about the next level of precision and rigor that you could get with this data if you had more money and time to invest. These data are strong. They’re based on sound methods. We have good answers to your questions. Go put it to use.” They did, and their business is blossoming.
It’s an oddly common situation we find ourselves in these days: advising our client against more research. For advocates of information and fact-based strategies (including us), the increasingly central role for market research is gratifying. But too many surveys and research-for-research’s-sake can’t sustain itself, nor should it. Market research only matters if it is acted upon and used in smart and strategic ways.
How do you know if, instead of research, you should focus on a full-force marketing effort or at least a better strategic plan before launching research? Here are three situations we typically see:
1. When you are unable to formulate specific questions that need to be answered. There is a good deal of research done in the name of “best practices” or because the latest Harvard Business Review suggested (foolishly) that everybody ought to be measuring their Net Promoter Score. Before you do research, you must have specific unanswered questions and a clear understanding of what you would do with those answers. (See our whitepaper, The Art of Asking Questions.)
2. When you have a stack of old research reports and are not sure what to do with them. While there is some chance that the research was inherently not “actionable,” there is an even greater chance that it was done without a focused need. There is also a good chance that if you go back to step one—formulating the questions that need to be answered—you may find some answers in those old reports. The story and the insights in research data never speak for themselves. They need the context of questions that need to be answered and that can be acted upon.
3. When your organization is struggling to organize and implement marketing campaigns. There is often a lot of low-hanging fruit in marketing, and if you’re not grabbing it, then your resources may be better spent fixing your marketing operation than collecting new data. We recently advised a company that was struggling to implement any consistent marketing campaign beyond an e-mail blast to current customers. What would they do with research?
Market research can never substitute for doing the work of marketing. Nor can another round of data and “actionable insights” replace the crucial role of marketing leadership, know-how, and initiative.
Give us a call and we would be happy to help you think more thoroughly about your research needs. We love solving problems, finding information, and turning data into stories that answer your critical questions. We also love the point at which we tell our clients, “Enough with the research already—it is time for you to get out there and sell!”
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.