Market Research and Analysis

The Most Underrated Marketing Task

It is the most neglected marketing function, yet it can make or break your strategy.

Market research is like the foundation of a building. It’s neither glamorous (a big hole filled with concrete and steel), nor loved (are there any industry awards for a building’s foundation?).

However, you cannot build something remarkable without it.

The main benefits of market research are:

  • Reduces risk by providing facts to base your decisions upon
  • Identifies market opportunities and problems for you to address
  • Strengthens your competitive advantage through an in-depth understanding of customer needs and behaviours

Nevertheless, many businesses ignore market research. Why?

There’s certainly the reasons of time, resources, and budget. But I think the biggest reason for why marketers do not conduct market research is we ‘think’ we know what our customers want and what our competitors are doing. Yet, these thoughts are assumptions without data to prove or disprove them. And here is where we often get ourselves into trouble. Outdated, false assumptions about your customers is often the main culprit for why marketing programs underperform.

For example, a columnist for Inc. magazine, Paul Brown, writes in ‘Why customer feedback trumps your gut every time’ about how he thought the title of his book would have people pulling it off the shelves. Until a focus group told him otherwise. As Brown states, “If you really want to know what customers want, you have to ask them”.

Which leads us to another false assumption. We believe our customers are too busy and unwilling to participate in surveys. When I conduct market surveys for my customers, I find around 70% of the recipients are willing to participate. The high response rate demonstrates your customers want to tell you what they like and dislike because they know the information will help you create more value for them.

So to help you kick-off your market research program, here are my top seven tips to conduct a successful qualitative customer survey:

  1. Set 1 – 2 objectives for the survey

What do you really need to know from your customers? Do not compile a long list of objectives. Too many objectives leads to too many questions, and a poor response rate (see tip #4). Surveys based on a single theme are best.

  1. Choose specific customers to survey

Based on your objectives in #1 above, choose the specific customers whose answers will make a significant difference to your business. Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies here, so pick the 15 – 30 customers whom will greatly influence what you do next (once the results are in).

  1. Conduct the survey by telephone

I find telephone provides the highest survey response rate, and is ideal for short qualitative surveys.

  1. Ask 5 – 10 questions

Your survey should only take a few minutes of your customer’s time. If you ask too many questions, they will get frustrated, and / or decline to participate.

  1. Tell the customer how long the survey will take – and stick to the time limit.

Tell the customer at the beginning of your phone call how long the survey is (7 questions) and how long it will take (3 minutes). Commit to these limits.

  1. Analyse the data

Find the insights to help you deliver more value to your customers.

  1. Take action

Armed with new insights about your customers, the final step is to create a plan of action and execute it.

P.S. – My friend Geoff Stewart pointed out #8 tip: Let the customer know what changes you have made as a result of their feedback. 

In summary, market research provides marketers with the evidence (data) to create brilliant marketing strategies. The insights gained from market research enable you to stand out from the crowd.

Now is the time to test those long held assumptions about your customers and competitors. The return on investment is too huge to ignore.

If you enjoyed the article please leave a comment, and / or share with others.

2 replies
  1. Geoff Stewart
    Geoff Stewart says:

    Nice, clear summary John. The Gut has value, if you are close enough to your customers, though without research backing, gets people into more trouble than they know.
    Might be a final smaller step (or part of the action step) – letting customers know what has improved as a result of their help.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *