Sunday, January 18, 2009

Customer Insights and Marketing Research

Seth Godin has published an amazing business insight his today's post. Its about how to make your product or service click with the customer. He argues that customers come to you either because they are in love with your product or its less annoying for them to use your product or service. Though counter intuitive these two are the two ends of the same spectrum. As you delve deeper you realise how simple the concept is and how true the application. And as illustrated in the post, the insight can help a lot in forming strategies for the future. He has explained the concept beautifully with some very good examples including that of FireFox, FedEx, post office etc.

The underlying idea of this post is to understand the approach and perspective of thinking and apply it to Market Research (used as MR subsequently). Whats interesting to know is that how Mr Godin must have reached this insight. He did not do any survey to find this out. He never asked any person to tell him what kind of services he is looking for and nor did he smother some random people and goad them into filling questionnaires of which nothing can be derived. He just went above the daily transactional data, saw the patterns, read between the lines and made meaning out of it. Its like peeling the onion layer by layer and getting to the core. Why can't this kind of in sighting become a part of MR and if it can why do they still teach you to make questionnaires and shove them upon people who are in the least receptive mind and who don't give a damn for your research.

Of course there will be some areas where you cant do away with lengthy questionnaires, but is this MR all about. I believe in this whole ballyhoo of MR its the key insights that get lost in the heaps of data which is of no value if you are just making a pie charts and histograms and running some complex statistical tests to state the obvious and keep the management happy. Then I don't need MR. If you are able to get beneath the issue and let me know how the customer will behave and how is he likely to act in the future, what is he thinking, what he needs in the future, then I am interested.

Here's the thing about MR –
1) The questions are not satisfying to the customer - instead they annoy him/her to the core because of the sheer length and stupidity of the questions.
2) The questions are not satisfying to the assessor either because
a) Authenticity of data is in question (given the annoying state of mind of the customer)
b) Assessors don't go till the core instead they just flirt with the initial layers and present the results with cooked up data just to prove something which management wants to hear.

I fail to understand why every time you have to start with a questionnaire to kick start your MR and even if you have to, why are the questions so annoying. Why cant the questions be totally done away with for a longer conversation instead. Why cant the whole process be made less annoying.

Well I am no expert in MR but my argument is anything which was working 10 years or even 5 years back need not work now. Look at the effectiveness of the whole exercise. Is the process giving you what you actually want to achieve and to what extent. If you are willing to pay enormous amounts of money to MR agencies just to hear what you want to hear, its sheer waste - you might as well burn that money. Instead question the process and its effectiveness.

Well in fact you can take a tip from Seth's article himself. If not something which people love, one can make the whole process much less annoying. :)

No comments: