Posted by Alan Nazarelli ● Wed, Sep 12, 2012 @ 10:11 AM

Marketing Research: The 10 Most Common Mistakes Users Make

Getting started

Market research is an ever-changing industry. However, it seems some aspects of marketing research stand the test of time - for better or worse.

Quirk’s magazine recently re-published an article from the seventies, commenting on how relevant it is today. Despite major technological advances in data collection and sophistry in analytical techniques, the fundamentals of getting market research right have not changed!

Here is the full article from Quirk’s magazine. Read on…..

Quirk’s Editor's note: Marketing research is an ever-changing industry that has evolved from knocking on doors and paper-and-pencil surveys to telepresence focus groups and heat maps of the human brain. However, it seems some aspects of marketing research stand the test of time - for better or worse. This article, "Ten common mistakes in marketing research" by Jim Nelems, CEO of The Marketing Workshop Inc., Norcross, Ga., originally appeared in Southern Advertising and Markets in the mid-1970s. It's uncanny - and a bit scary - how relevant it is still is today, over three decades later. Will researchers ever learn or is history doomed to repeat itself?   Market Research resized 600

One of the most significant trends in Southern marketing over the past few years has been the increasing sophistication of advertisers and agencies in the performance of their marketing activities. Much of this sophistication and resulting success revolves around the effective and efficient use of marketing research. This increased use of marketing research is not without its problems, however. And problems are many. Let's review what we think are the 10 most common mistakes in marketing research to which many research users fall victim.

  1. Lack of clearly defined marketing objectives. 
    In our opinion, this is the single biggest problem in marketing research: deciding before the research is done why it is being done and if the research will, in fact, answer the questions it is designed to answer. How many times have we heard, after a research report is presented, "Yes, that's right but that really wasn't what we were trying to find out. What we really want to know is...” What a waste of research dollars, not to mention everyone's time!

  2. Conducting "interesting” but useless research.
    Research must be much more than interesting. It must be actionable. It must be conducted among the defined target audience and answer the question at hand. There is far too much "interesting" research and not enough "actionable" research.

  3. Letting questions do all the work.
    The essentials of a marketing research project are the questions asked by the interviewing instrument (be it personal interviewer, telephone surveyor or mail questionnaire). But research is much more than asking questions. Many people ask the wrong questions. For instance, in testing a package, we should not be interested in knowing if people like the package design but whether or not it has visibility and/or communicates its intended message. Some people ask superficial questions. Of course, we want to know why someone buys one soft drink over another. Why not just ask them why they buy Brand B? Because they don't often know why they buy it. Or they may know and can't express it. Or they can express it but won't do so for an interviewer. There are better ways of finding out why some people do certain things than by simply asking why.

  4. Simplifying results out of context.
    Most research studies are really too involved to be reduced to a single number, such as an on-air recall score for a commercial or an overall preference in a product test. There are usually too many factors involved to make research results so "simple" yet it is often done to sell research or to give management a conclusion without thought on their part.

  5. Underanalyzing the research. 
    Here we are talking about making conclusions that can properly be drawn from the data and making all the conclusions that should be drawn. Too many times one sees only percentages showing how many people felt this way or that way or how people over age 35 felt versus those under 35 but with little real insight into their reactions. There are many sophisticated techniques, using computers, which can often be applied to the data and with good results. Unfortunately, too few researchers understand them or if they understand them, cannot explain them to management.

  6. Overanalyzing the report.
    Just as some research is underanalyzed, much research is also overanalyzed. Mathematical techniques are great if they are appropriate to the project, if they can be explained to management and if they are correctly done. But they should not be done for show, to give the impression that the researcher knows what he is talking about when no one else does or simply to get more money for the project.

  7. Using the wrong technique.
    There are dozens of research techniques and many marketing situations are suitable to more than one method of solution. Yet it is also true that many are misused. Focus group sessions are one which immediately come to mind. They are immensely useful in exploration of ideas and in giving insight. However too many people use them as substitutes for quantitative research rather than as a prelude to a later quantitative study.  

  8. Selecting the wrong research firm.
    When selecting a research supplier, competitive bids are often used. And correctly so. But the firm which has the lowest price or the biggest name or which will do the most interviews is not necessarily the one to use. In buying research, one should look for the quality of the analytical ability of the people who will be involved with the project and the creativity of the researcher in project design and analysis. These are usually much more important than the price per interview or the number of crosstabulations or the length of the report.

  9. Expecting research to provide all the answers. 
    Research can help in solving the problems faced by the marketer. It can reduce risk in choosing the wrong alternative and increase the probability of making the right decision. But it should not make the decision for him because there are often non-research factors to be considered.

  10. Viewing research as an expense rather than an investment.
    Too many marketers see research as a dollar expenditure rather than an investment in helping them to make the right decisions. If a research expenditure of a few thousand dollars can make a media buy more efficient, give confidence that a new cheaper formula is as good as the current high-cost one or allow the use of advertising that is twice as effective in communicating its basic selling message then it would seem to have earned its place in the advertiser's budget rather than viewed as a drain on the treasury which the company can't afford.

Let us know what you think are the most common mistakes in marketing research.

Topics: Voice of the Customer, Voice of the Customer, Technology Market Research, Market Research, Market Validation Research