Research: Imperative, Not Optional

When budgets get squeezed, one of the first casualties is research, even though it produces results that can determine the success of marketing strategies.

Few people buy a house, new car or television without researching features and price points. So why does it make sense for companies to spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns without the compass of research findings?

One of the most important research assignments is to measure the gap between the perceptions of an organization and its customers or constituents. Perception gap analysis can be humbling. But it also can bring unrealistic expectations down to earth – and maybe send product developers and service providers back to the drawing table to improve what they offer.

Business executives often fall in love with creative ideas and ads, without the benefit of knowing whether this slice of cleverness will cause someone to buy a product or service. Ads need to be more than artful or funny. They need to drive sales. Good research can assess advertising effectiveness.

Another critical role of research is gauging customer satisfaction. In the age of social media, organizations may think it is enough to monitor online comments. While directly engaging online critics is valuable and frequently therapeutic for organizations, it isn’t a substitute for a more comprehensive assessment of customer satisfaction. What keeps customers coming back? What causes customers to look for alternatives? What needs do customers want filled?

Research is a valuable – and indispensable – business tool. It isn’t an option; it’s an imperative.