It's no secret market research has always been a strong passion of mine. Entering college as an accounting major, numbers have always been intriguing to me. As a kid, I spent countless hours reading and studying the stats on the backs of baseball cards.
My love affair with numbers probably explains a thing or two about my fantasy baseball habits. Isn't fantasy sports its own market research in a way? You review past trends and analyze numbers to make assumptions and predictions about the future. I digress.
Going into college, I was equally as interested in the advertising and marketing end of business. As it turns out, market research has been the absolute perfect blend of the two. After taking a consumer behavior class in my sophomore year and digging into index scores I was immediately hooked.
I traded in debits and credits for significance testing, conjoint analysis, and red herrings. I never looked back and to this day, 16 years later, I've never once regretted the decision and new path I took. As a 19-year-old college student I always felt fortunate figuring this out relatively early in my career.
Everyone has a passion, so I figured I would spend some time trying to understand what makes market research so appealing to me and for our market research firm blog readers, appealing to you as well. Passion comes in many forms. It's the same way helping students learn and expand appeals to teachers. Or how working on cars appeals to mechanics.
Is it all about the numbers?
So I am left wondering, does market research appeal to me because of the numbers or is it something more? When we say we work in market research, most people immediately jump to numbers and statistics. Over the years, I've seen some talented people working in market research who are not numbers people.
Take a top-notch focus group moderator for example. They can be excellent at engaging a group, asking questions, and running a room. None of those require talent or a PhD in statistics. What about a graphic designer who works on infographics and reports? Some of the best graphic designers who work in market research probably don't have a background in mathematics.
Image used to show this is the time of reflection for this blog post.
I've done some thinking and here are 4 reasons I love working in market research.
Market research appeals to me for this very simple reason: you listen. As more of an introvert with some ambiverted skills after a few cups of coffee, I've always been more of a listener than a talker. This is why market research has been a good fit for my skill set because I am always one to listen-first before speaking. While listening during market research interviews or reading survey responses, I soak in the information and begin analyzing it immediately.
I've said this many times through past blogs and throughout our market research firm website, market research is a genuine process. It listens to customer feedback and suggests actions and improvements on the data. Feedback to interpretation to recommendations. Seems almost too simple right?
As market researchers we're business consultants. Instead of using gut decisions and sample sizes of 1 to suggest changes and recommendations for business strategy, we take a different approach. We use fact-based and evidence-based data to guide next steps. So it's well-aligned with what your customers and your market wants.
Instead of Rick your marketing consultant saying "use message C and market it on channels R, S, D because that's what I feel will work", we use 400 completed surveys from your customers to say "this is why your customers choose you and here are the channels they spend their time in, so use this message B and market it on channels H, J, and K."
So, which is more reliable? Rick and his sample size of 1 or 400 customers telling you what they want and need to be better customers? Choose wisely.
2. Interpreting Data
All market research involves a little psychology. It examines why people makes decisions and interprets underlying motives behind those decisions. Market research isn't simply collecting data. Collecting data is only the first step in the process (or 5th or 6th if you account for steps in the kickoff and set up). The real value of market research comes in the analysis, assumptions, and interpretation.
Making interpretations and assumptions with data creates dialogue. I would say the best parts of a market research readout is when a number is thrown out followed by differing opinions on why the number is what it is. It creates conversation and a deeper understanding and deeper level of analysis. There may not be a right or wrong answer but it leads to more questions. It creates a highly-strategic conversation.
Simply reading a pie chart and making the claim "45% of the market is aware of your product" doesn't add any value to a report. Anyone can read that pie chart and understand the 45% as a takeaway. Your job as a market researcher is to dig deeper and understand how that 45% came to be. Is there a difference between males and females? Does it differ by geography? Investigate.
What do you see? Probably not just a pie chart that says 45%.
3. Asking why?
I laugh a little bit because every time I write about this because I think of kids in the back seat asking "are we there yet?" It's a little like that but for different reasons. Asking why peels back the onion and looks for root causes. The best market research firms excel at this through surveys and interviews. Voice of Customer (VoC) education and certification classes teaches you to ask "why" at least 5 times to understand root cause. That may be overdoing it (kids in the back seat) but I understand the point.
Far too many market research firms stop at Level 1. Take NPS for example. If a customer rates you a 6 (on a 0 to 10 scale) on likelihood to recommend, most market research firms will follow-up with a simple "why?" Let's say the respondent answers, "the customer service is great." As a market researcher you should know there is immediately more to this story. Unfortunately, most will just move on.
The interviewer should know if the customer service was great, the rating would be higher than a 6. They would also immediately know this respondent falls into the "detractor" portion of the NPS analysis which categorizes them as unsatisfied and not loyal. So additional digging needs to be done on that "6" which seemed simple at face value.
This is where it gets fun because you can uncover underlying factors which impact that "6." The best interviewers would follow-up with, "you said the customer service was great but you rated likelihood to recommend a 6, is there a reason for that?" Ask "what could be done to get it to a 10?" "Why did you state the customer service was great, were there any particulars?" "Are we there yet?"
4. Helping clients
At the end of the day, this is what it's all about right? Regardless of whether you work in digital marketing, IT, or market research. The market research, the data, and the analysis carries no weight unless it makes an impact. Market research can help answer all of those questions facing your business you've never had answers to. You may hear a comment here and there from customers, but you've likely never taken the time to truly understand drivers to loyalty, comparisons to the competition, or demographic profiles of your customers.
Market research can help answer all of this for you in a statistically reliable way by following an engineered process from kickoff through set up, fieldwork, and reporting. Market research firms give you the data you need to make better decisions and take action. The best part? Circling back to my 1st point, it's all aligned by customer wants and needs. If 80% of your customers say they will buy more if you do X, you should do X.
A comprehensive market research study will give you this information (and possibly Rick, your marketing consultant, if he gets lucky.)
Market research shows you the path to successful growth.
All through the most important perspective of all: your customer.
Drive Research is a market research firm in Syracuse, NY. This blog post was written by George Kuhn, Owner & President of the company. He's spent the better part of 12+ years working for both client-side and provider-side market research firms in Syracuse.
George can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 315-303-2040.