Who needs research? Ok, this is not a trick question. I’m not baiting you to say yes so I can pounce and land a new client or gig. It’s a pretty straightforward question that should be no brainer to answer. Everyone that sells, services, thinks about, talks to, wants to talk to, or interacts in some fashion with a customer of some type needs research. Easy right? I even gave you the answer.
I’m asking because I was at a lunch meeting recently, and the person I was with asked me this exact question. And yes, he knew that I’m a 17+ year research junkie, ran a corporate research department, and now run my own research firm. His point was not just who needs research, but also why would someone need research. He feels that research is expensive and that he (or other marketers) should be deep enough in their knowledge of their customer to be in tune with their needs. He asked, “Why spend all that money when I can just talk to my own customers and ask them”. I told him that’s a semi valid point – “Do you talk to your own customers and ask them” I inquired. “No, but I can if I have any questions” he continued. I’ll save you the back and forth, but you get the point. He feels that he can simply talk to his own customers whenever he wants (or needs) and save the trouble of dealing with someone like me (and I am a lot of trouble to deal with). We went on to have a really fun, enlightening conversation.
So why does he need me (or someone else) to help him with research. It’s actually pretty simple as I see it. Research is about asking the right questions of the right audience at the right time in the right way. Right? No pressure. The job of a researcher is to know when and how best to ask the proper question to get unbiased usable feedback from the target audience. If I’m asking questions about my own business or product, clearly I run the risk of being biased, and my respondent is going to smell that a mile away. They may now potentially give me the answer they think I want to hear. “Hey Bob, what do you think of the new widget my company just launched?”
Now I do think you should ask that question, but bear in mind that you’re not always going to be getting the truth or a non-watered down version of the truth depending on who you ask and how you ask it. You just need to talk to someone on the outside, without a vested interest in the outcome of the response, and have them help you ask the right questions, correctly. We researchers are focused on helping our clients (internal or external) resolve those burning questions that keep you up at night. “What do they really think (or want, or eat, or see, or understand or, or?)”
Without being vested in the response, I can ask the questions that need to be asked, ask those follow up questions that fill in the gaps, and then report them back to you without emotion or ego getting in the way. I start my focus groups by telling respondents that “I have no vested interest in the product/service/show/concept that we are here to talk about today, if you love it excellent, if you hate it excellent. I’m here to help the company behind this thing better understand your needs – you can’t hurt my feelings or offend me in any way at all.” Once they understand my role as a moderator, we can get busy. So, very long story, but you do need research!
Until next time! See you in groups!