Researchers' Biggest Challenges

Ever get the feeling that that the issues you experience as a marketer/market researcher are unique to you and your company? In some cases, that might be the case, but most deal with very similar challenges regardless of company size, vertical industry, product or service offering. In a July 2004 survey of over 1,600 members of the American Marketing Association who both buy and sell research, three common themes were found. They were:

Survey quality -- The most important survey quality issue was reaching a representative sample of respondents, an issue that is ever increasing and was talked about in our November 4th issue. As discussed, this appears to be an issue that will continue into the near future. The second issue is accurately and correctly analyzing results. Accurately analyzing results means that the statistics were performed accurately, while correctly analyzing results means that the researcher set up the research strategy, survey questions and ensuing analysis structure correctly. Both are critical. The third was maximizing survey participation and completion rates -- also briefly covered in the November 4th issue.

Improving survey operations -- The most important issue for improving survey operations is reducing costs. As completion rates continue to decline and acquiring representative samples require that much more work (time and money), costs for quality marketing research have generally escalated. Reducing errors in data collection and coding is the second issue of highest concern in survey operations. These first two issues, of course, are in constant struggle to find equilibrium, for with greater spending typically comes greater quality. The third operational improvement is conducting more effective research online and the fourth is reducing results analysis time. The Internet has certainly played an enormously important role in marketing research, and as a greater portion of the worldwide population has access to Internet service, Internet surveying should continue to get more effective. Unfortunately, analyzing results is one of those things that will always take time to execute properly. And as marketing researchers dig deeper and deeper into their clients' data, not just marketing research results but also looking at appended customer level data, complex analysis and interpretation could take even longer.

Turning results into action -- A key concern continues to be how researchers can leverage results toward strategic business advantages. Their top issue is making sure the research function is not marginalized in the strategy process and that management fully understands the significance and importance of survey results and analysis. The second most important issue is communicating results across a broad range of functional managers -- a perennial favorite. The third key issue is understanding and communicating financial implications of the marketing research. Without being able to communicate the financial implications, marketing research is forever at the risk of not being leveraged and perhaps marginalized, when in fact it can often be used to guide the highest quality strategic decisions within a company.

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