The Rights Questions

Jun 14, 2020

“ Part of being successful is about asking questions and listening to the answers.” -Anne Burrell

For marketing research to fulfill a thoroughly essential role in business strategy development, it should be designed to deliver insights to support an understanding of what is and why it is. And, there’s a wide variety of research methods and techniques to achieve this (fodder for other blogs). Without insulting your intelligence, yet to lay foundation for the extended thoughts herein, lets call out that for marketing research to be fundamentally useful it helps us understand the “what” state; awareness, perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, usage, intentions, and tolerances, and across each of those intel points, the “why” circumstances. “What” insights are the landscape, the things we manage as a result of the “why”, thus only half of the insights important for strategy development. The “why” behind the what, now there is where opportunities lie, the essential other half of the insights vital for developing winning business strategies. Considering the why factors is important to every key business decision; positioning, branding, targeting, product development, marketing messaging, and particularly fuels innovation. Businesses become much more highly effective in each of their areas when they understand influencers, motivators, and emotions that are the reasons why awareness does or does not exist, why certain perceptions and attitudes have formed, and what stimulates emotive responses. We derive an understanding of need states and unmet needs – opportunity knocking!

The premise of all of that may be fairly fundamental, but executing against it is not simple.  It takes effective research design strategy to yield effective business development strategy. Knowing which methodologies to incorporate is part of an effective research strategy, yes, however the best laid research design is for naught if the research instruments are absent the right questions posed in the right way with the right flow. Expert research design is a little bit academic and a lot of wisdom.  Wisdom that comes from experience, honed intuition, and marketing mindedness. CMOs and Brand Managers know when they are talking to a research firm that has this type of experience, they can tell by what questions the research firm asks about the business decisions the research is to serve, and they can tell by the thought leadership type inputs the research firm contributes. Clients can also tell when they are talking to a research firm who’s simply going through the paces of nail & hammer process. Never confuse efficacy with process, and always expect to have custom solutions to leverage your important business solutions.

As any agile researcher knows, it’s not enough to just ask the right questions. It’s interpreting the results in a meaningful and actionable way, grounded in the research objectives (the reason the client has invested in research) that comes from experience and a marketing mindset. It’s knowing what to ask next because of we learned what we learned. And, it’s knowing when to move on from a particular hypotheses (regardless of how personally invested) and be research-led to new ideas and direction. A good research partner will always be confident enough to save a client from themselves.

A short case example: SUV design Based on syndicated data, an automotive manufacturer had embraced a hypothesis that two different SUVs designs would be necessary to fulfill new model strategies. A Marketing Workshop team was engaged to conduct a large scale qualitative study (quali-quant), to assist with design focus. A primary research objective being, to understand the importance of stow space versus passenger space relative to purchase considerations. Participants consisted of those who had recently purchased an SUV, and were segmented into two primary groups; those who have multiple passengers frequently (families, carpools, etc.), and those who rarely have backseat passengers (singles, MNK, retired, etc.).

In addition to group discussions revealing useful information about need states and no-need realities, a series of 1:1 exercises were then conducted that included the participants sitting in various positions within the SUV while being interviewed. This exercise allowed a deep dive into the when and when not, the why and why not, and ultimately understand the bearing on purchase considerations based on space related priorities. The learning obtained across both elements of this research program, and the right questions strategy, served to be extremely valuable, stimulating a new design approach previously unimagined by the manufacturer – a dual design strategy, an SUV with a flexible adjustment feature accommodating the needs of both consumer segments, those who value more room for storage over passenger space, and an optional configuration for those who frequently have passengers and factor their comfort as part of the purchase decision.

It’s Not Just Knowing the Right Questions to Ask, It’s Knowing When It’s Time to Start Asking New Ones. 

~ Marketing Workshop