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LESSONS LEARNED: NO.4 Don’t Assume, Get a Professional to Ask

Lessons Learned is a series from Marketing Futures where Co-Chairman Dave McCaughan shares some of his experience from three decades leading the marketing communications for major international brands across Asia.

No matter how good you are there is always something market research will teach you

First, let’s be clear: You should NOT do market research yourself. Remember lesson no 1 in this series (the September issue) “You are NOT normal”. The worst mistake marketers make is believing “well I know” because they think they have experience. I have met and worked with and for hundreds of senior marketers, business people and agency executives from some of the world’s best companies and the number one consistency I have learned is that they all knew less about the people they wanted to become their consumers or customers than they thought.

The number two consistency was that the really successful one loved and spent a lot of time understanding market research.

And while I applaud managers who go out and spend the time personally interviewing, discussing with and observing their potential consumer they have a natural bias to read in to ever encounter what they think is right.

So yes, please go watch focus groups, sit in your potential customers office or kitchen, take a drive with them. It is great to see “normal” people in their real world environment. However, please make sure you base real decisions on proper, professionally managed, neutral market research.

It is NOT expensive. In fact probably no other investment in your business can get the returns of good market research. Recently I had the chance to interview Simon Chadwick for my podcast series MR Realities where I talk to the world’s leading market research authorities about what makes good research (you can hear this and all the podcasts in the series). Simon is the editor of one of the leading industry magazines, Research World, and a leading authority on the value of good research. He blew me away when he explained that recent research in the USA showed that doing properly managed market research had an average return on investment of nearly 4,000% !!

I repeat 4,000%. Can you risk NOT doing independent, quality research ?

Of course I am a lucky guy. A long time ago when I first joined the advertising world in my home city of Sydney I was lucky to meet and spend time talking to Australia’s “father of social research”, a fellow named Hugh Mackay. Hugh was a master at breaking down what were the key issues in life for all sorts of people and what that meant to brands. I was lucky right from the start to work with research agencies my clients hired who were leading the way as to how modern market research impacted decision making. Later I have been lucky in being asked to join and lead many marketing research conferences around the world. The most important learning from all that luck: The better the quality of the research done, the more chance a marketer has of success.

When I first moved to Asia in 1996 part of my role was to launch the first ongoing qualitative market research program in the region. Ten countries, fifteen cities, qualitative discussions with “normal people” about their lives at least once a month. Later it expanded to other regions. The core markets in SE Asia, India and yes Bangladesh kept up versions of the program for nearly seventeen years. That program became a sounding board and learning tool for many marketing campaigns we developed for companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, L’Oreal, Johnson & Johnson, MasterCard. We were able to make sure that by using professional standards and constant independent analysis clients were told what really mattered to people. And that, as we said in Lesson 2, is all that really matters.

The types of research you do can vary greatly depending on what you need to know, check, discover. Personally in the last two years I have been re-educating myself to learn to use machine learning platforms that do market research across the internet by neutral analysis of linguistics. More on that later.

For now though here is why we are talking about this lesson: too many marketers and business people in Bangladesh are thinking too small, or just don’t want to know what really matters or are just robbing themselves and their investors by not paying for quality learning and checking about the people you want to buy your product or service constantly.

Lesson 4  4,000% ROI. You are just a bad manager if you are not spending more on research.

Originally posted on ICE Business Times.

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