Monday, November 21, 2011

3 Fatal Misuses of Market Research

I'm not blogging to knock audience measurement or market research.  It put bread on my table for 3 years, while I worked at The Nielsen Company.  My advice, if the numbers don't help your story, turn the graph 90 degrees and check again.  You won't be the first marketing person to do so.

Do blogger moms think I'm sexy?
Having seen the sausage being made, I can say there is more science to it then some would care to recognize, but, still, I see people quote stats all the time and make three fatal errors of market data usage:

  1. Asking and understanding the methodology: What were the questions asked, or sometimes, more importantly, what was asked?  Who did they ask?  How many people did they ask?  Was the sample representative?  One classic case you see in reporting on mobile phone sales is comparing sell-through numbers with sell-to numbers.  What's in consumers hands vs. on shelves.  Big difference.
  2. Market research is only directional for the innovator: If research data could predict the future, a lot of Nielsen, Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc. analysts that I know would be retired on a beach somewhere.  They're not.  Data can definitely give you both a status of where the world stands today, and trends, so they offer great directional insight.  When it comes to innovation, however, that's probably the limit.  I've had people ask me if I had research which would validate the innovations they had planned.  That's equivalent to expecting people to say they wanted the Facebook before it was available.
  3. Cite your source: If you are going to use some data, cite the source and date of the data.  Otherwise, I can assume you made it up, or its 3 years old, which is okay if your nostalgic, but not so cool, if you are trying to make informed decisions.
Have a good weekend.  I don't have the data to prove that it's going to be good.  I just have a feeling.

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