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Market Research: Executives Discuss Pitfalls Challenges and Opportunities by Suzanne Elshult, Executive Coach, HRNow

So what are marketing executives pondering upon when they think about market research. Here is a sampler of market research pitfalls, challenges and opportunities that created engaged conversation at today’s marketing executive peer group session.

• Pitfall:One of the problems we have as marketers is that we some times fall into the trap of thinking we can project our point of view on our customers. We really cannot be our own audience!
• Pitfall: We are victims to thinking we know what our customers think and feel and basically go out and validate our preconceived notions.
• Pitfall: Market research has earned a bad reputation by not being able to show what the data really means. It often illuminates an issue but fails to provide answers.
• Pitfall: Are you expecting one number from your third party market researchers? Ask them to break it down? Know how much you are paying for “brand and insights.”
• Pitfall: Canned research application that are shoved down our throat do not work. Culture rules and we need to work with market researchers that truly understand our companies-certainly an argument for not changing vendors constantly.

• Challenge: How can we become more effective at sifting and sorting resources. We have to figure out who the “hacks” are and who is right for you and a specific project you have in mind.
• Challenge: You cannot argue with opinion. It is a losing battle. You CAN reference market research however.
• Opportunity: Rejoinder when someone does not believe the data? “Do you have your own market research? If you don’t we will go with mine.” Make sure you have buyin from the beginning – it is harder to second guess the results of the questionnaire if you were involved in the design.
• Challenge: My need as a marketing executive is to get info that doesn’t exist. How do you make something that does not exist most useful for you?
• Challenge: “The curse of knowledge.” What if your C Suite came up through engineering and assume they already know it all. How do you switch the paradigm for the people that know too much?

• Opportunity: Market research can be an incredible credibility enhancer. You need more credibility with your C-suite? Market research can be your answer!
• Opportunity: Start with the end in mind when you do market research, then back into complicated questions such as what methodology to use and how we want to use the research.
• Opportunity: In certain industries and environments (and gifted individuals-but genius does not necessarily translate from one industry to another – JC Penney??), Steve Jobs contention that it is not the customers job to tell us what they need may be true. Steve would have said that we need to know our customers so well that we understand what they want and need better than they do themselves.
• Opportunity: Your market researcher becomes increasingly valuable to you over time and gains a lot of institutional knowledge.
• Opportunity: Thing through before you launch your market research project how you want to present the data at the end, regardless of what the results are. Remain fluid if you run into surprising results.
• Opportunity: Create an “Analysis Plan” upfront and make it an explicit step in the market research process.
• Opportunity: Make sure you know what you plan to “do” with the data before you launch the project. Some times market research just become a set of good intentions.
• Opportunity: If the decision makers think they know the answer you may need to let them fail at times. Let them “fail forward.”

Favorite Quotes or Phrases:HIPPO – Highest paid persons debate opinion.
The difference between quantitative and qualitative is projectability!
The truth lies somewhere.
I go outside for market research. I simply don’t have the time to do it wrong.


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