It’s not easy being a marketer in today’s competitive landscape. To succeed, you need to be able to cut through the clutter and set yourself apart from your competitors. Often, market research plays a vital role in that process. Market research in itself is already challenging when dealing with time, money or resource constraints.
However, market researchers also need to steer clear of certain traps that ultimately wind up muddying up the data and giving the wrong impressions. Even the most experienced market researchers can make mistakes. Sometimes it’s human error but more often than not it is a result of traditional market research methods and the lack of alternatives. Whilst you can’t anticipate everything that crops up, we have identified some common traps through our own client engagements that can help you avoid some of the common “traps”.
Focus groups have long been the cornerstone for qualitative research systems. In the 1950’s it was common practice to put concepts in front of a 30 people focus group and call it good. While this old school method certainly still holds a special place in market research, the value can be easily overestimated and shouldn’t be the only source of information.
A focus group is most effective in measuring the reactions of a group of customers when they are introduced to a stimulus. A stimulus could range from a concept to an actual product, to marketing collateral. The respondents thoughts on things like design, packaging, or price are easy to scrutinize and often provide a rich level of depth. While the insights help understand the minds of their consumers relative to a specific stimulus, there are considerations when it comes to focus groups.
Unfortunately, focus groups fall short in providing the level of accuracy marketers need to improve their results. One primary reason for this is due to focus group bias. Whether intentionally or inadvertently, the moderator can easily impact the outcome of the focus group’s discussion and this results in inaccurate findings. This happens whenever a moderator injects his or her own personal feelings into the discussion or they lead the group to a certain assumption about the product.
Another reason why the opinions formed by a focus group can’t always be trusted is lack of honesty. When groups of people get together, it is natural for some to be less prone to present their honest feelings for fear of having different thoughts from the rest of the group. These people don’t want to “let down” the group or the moderator, or feel peer pressure, so they just go along with what everybody else is saying. If this occurs too often amongst a small sample size, this type of inaccuracy can be especially detrimental.
Last, focus groups sample sizes don’t provide the statistical significance required to make strategic business decisions. You can certainly extrapolate insights from a focus group, but realistically you should only apply them to business decisions directionally. This is in part due to the moderator or group bias but also has to do with the fact that focus groups are rarely a true or full representation of your target market. As a result, this is why qualitative methods like focus groups are ran concurrently with quantitative elements to validate any assumptions or insights before making strategic decisions.
For years, the sales funnel has been one of the central concepts in the marketing industry for the consumer's path to purchase. While there are many variations on the sales funnel, the following eight-stages provide a generous example of what it may look like:
Designed as a systematic means of moving prospects from pre-awareness to making a purchasing decision, the sales funnel has understandably been an important source of data for marketers. Often the number of consumers in each stage of the sales funnel is looked upon for insight into whether or not things are working or where they are going wrong.
Consumers may be more educated, have more resources available to them, and be more connected, but this sales funnel still holds relatively true. With modern consumers, it just takes on a faster, more simplistic form of awareness, trial, repurchase, favorite and loyal. So while the sales funnel is a fairly traditional approach, when properly applied with modern research techniques, it’s still relevant. You’ll just have to make sure you adjust the funnel based on accurate product and shopper insights, and the type of consumer, in order to increase its reliability.
The biggest problem some companies face, is that they don’t know who they’re consumers are; as is often the case with startups. Therefore, one of the biggest mistakes made by inexperienced or first-time marketers is that they will often pre-define their target group based off of assumptions. For example, they may base their market off of instinct, experience, anecdotal evidence or who they hope is their consumer. The problem with this route, is you never really define who your consumer is, beyond superficial information.
More than that, if you pre-define your target market, and conduct research based off of those assumptions, you could risk some serious inaccuracies in future insights. While we all sometimes think we’re experts, and we may be right, it’s always smart to validate our hypotheses before basing an entire business strategy off of it.
Not keeping an open mind can apply to a lot when it comes to marketing. But when we’re talking about marketing research specifically, there are two major traps a marketer may fall into.
The first, is limiting your target sample to the same parameters every time. For example, your consumer may be male, between the age of 18 and 24, no kids, lower income etc. So each time you conduct research you may only approach that target sample for insights. While it’s evidently important you capture your target market, it’s impossible to understand what may set them apart from others, or look at the possibility of capturing a new consumer if you don’t conduct research with a broader group every once in awhile.
The second, is repeating the same research over and over. While consistencies in how you conduct some aspect of research like brand metrics, consumer segmentations, brand tracking and others makes sense, it’s important you don’t limit yourselves to repeating the same questions again and again just for the sake of it. You’ll never gain additional insights if you don’t ask new questions when you have the chance.
There could be instances when you do not pre-define the target audience and go with a true representation of the population. In such cases, you could end up uncovering hidden insights you never knew existed or be able to identify new target audiences which previously weren’t a focus. It’s important to understand that by taking a narrow view of your potential audience you also narrow the scope and application of the results and miss the opportunity of tapping new profit pools.
Research in itself isn't rocket science. If you're wondering what types of metrics or insights you should have and which ones are the best ones to combine and rely on, we're happy to help.