The 12 Marketing Research Myths
There are many myths about marketing research which limit and constrain its use. These myths are particularly damaging in regards to quantitative business-to-business research where it is assume that these intelligence gathering activities are appropriate only under the greatest distress. We have selected 12 of these that are among the grievous in that they tend to block the potential benefits to the firm.
Note that business-to-business markets have distinctly different characteristics from consumer, packaged goods, markets. Most of the “conventional wisdom” regarding marketing research tends to be derived from hear-say from studies of these consumer markets. But even for these markets the myths are still wrong.
1. Marketing research should only be undertaken after the business problems have been fully scoped.
2. Marketing research needs to be focused on a narrow single objective.
3. Marketing research provides a limited snap-shot in time and has little long-term value.
4. Marketing research can remove all uncertainty from marketing.
5. There are universally “Best” methods (practices) for collecting and analyzing marketing research data.
6. Qualitative (VOC) and quantitative research are competitive methods for collecting market intelligence.
7. Qualitative research (VOC) should never be analytical.
8. Quantitative marketing research requires large samples to be useful (significant).
9. Samples must always be random.
10. Never use internal staff to do Marketing Research
11. Using the most “accurate” and complex measurement is always the best.
12. Quantitative marketing research is always very expensive.
Marketing research is the eyes of the business. Understanding the market is critical for even formulating the problems. As such, marketing research must be a continuing process. A business can not wait for problems to be fully understood before exploring the marketplace. However, the better the business issues can be identified the more effective the marketing research is likely to be. Market intelligence should be available to assist with all business decisions.
Businesses never face a single problem or issue. Businesses need a broad range of marketing insight to help make the critical decisions. This is obtaining a “Pervasive Marketplace Awareness.” As such, excluding the exploration of the full range of factors motivating customers and the structure of the market is foolish and dangerous. This is particularly true with quantitative b-to-b marketing research. Providing only a part of the insight does not solve the overall business problem. From a marketing perspective, there are always four key issues that need action. These are the four “P’s”: Product Design, Pricing, Promotion, and Place (Distribution). These issues always need to be addressed and as such we always need market intelligence to help determine the appropriate routes.
While the world does change, it does so gradually. Marketing research information is generally valid over a considerable time. As such, it should be considered a valuable planning resource to be explored for seeking assistance with a broad range of issues over time. It is an investment in knowledge. The trick is to be able to utilize it.
As there is “fog of battle”, there is “fog in the marketplace”. No amount of research can eliminate the total uncertainty. It can help assess the chances of success and help guide development. But it can never assure success. It represents market structure and the opinions of potential influencers. But those opinions do not necessarily determine what will happen in the market. Product development is risky. Market intelligence and insight reduces the risk but can never eliminate it.
All data collection and analysis techniques have benefits and disadvantages. They are all based on assumptions with associated costs. As such, there are no universally “best” methods applicable to all situations. However, there are some methods that do tend to be more efficient and effective than others for business-to-business marketing research. But even these will not be applicable for all situations.
Qualitative (Voice of the Customer) and quantitative marketing research are complementary tasks. They are never competitive. They should always be considered together rather than separate undertakings. Qualitative research answers the questions around the “What” of the marketplace and Quantitative research answers the question of “How Much”. The design of quantitative research requires knowledge of the market obtained through understanding the “Voice of the Customer”. But without quantification, that knowledge is only anecdotal.
Much qualitative research (VOC) uses open-ended, subjective, questions as means of determining both the scope of marketing and purchase issues and to understand the language used. This is essential for exploring the full range of issues and avoiding being “blindsided.” However, this does not exclude the use of analytical methods and the ability to use these studies to provide some market assessment. Particularly in the study of business-to-business markets, it is useful to provide both types of information. Furthermore, analytics can be used effectively to classify respondents and understand their decision processes that the respondents are not fully cognitive of.
Samples for quantitative studies should be of the “correct” size. It is more important that the sample is of quality; that is, that the correct people are interviewed than that the sample is large. Usually with small populations, a higher precision of the study can be obtained with a smaller sample. “Statistical significance” only reads on the precision of averages. In most of the b-to-b studies, we are far more interested in the distribution of values from individuals. As such, small samples are highly useful.
Samples for quantitative study should be “representative”. In b-to-b markets this is particular interesting in that their may be only a few customers that represent the major portion of the business. All possible respondents are not equal. As such, a purely random sample is unlikely not be representative. What is important is to gather information from the most relevant respondents. In these cases a small sample may be better than a large truly “random” one.
Using the sales force and other internal staff for marketing research can introduce bias. As such, it has been traditionally frowned upon. However, this is not the only source of error and excludes other benefits. For Voice-of-the-Customer studies seeing the customer and having direct business involvement has value, particularly with on-site interviews. With small sample size studies, particularly small international surveys, using in place personnel can be very advantageous and greatly off-sets the potential of bias.
For marketing research to be effective the methods must be broad, accurate, and efficient. All methods contain sources of inaccuracy. None are perfect and all have some type of inaccuracy. The choice should be a balance of the objectives to deliver the most “quality” market insight feasible from studies. As such, we start with the simplest methods and only add complications when their advantages overwhelm the costs.
While b-to-b quantitative marketing research should never be considered “cheap,” is should always be considered affordable. Using appropriate well targeted samples; using most appropriate measuring methods and modern technology, the costs of the fielding modern b-to-b studies should be sufficiently affordable to be a standard source of market intelligence.