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Common Mistakes That Make Market Research “Dangerous”

January 21, 2013

lit matchA respected leader in the MR community recently posted a link to an article with this provocative title: Focus Groups Are Dangerous. Know When To Use Them. To put this in perspective, I believe that the same can be said about almost anything (matches, gasoline, staplers). This includes items from the market research repertoire from “archetypes“ to “benchmarks” to “closed-end questions “ to a “Z-Test” (thanks to GMI’s Glossary of market research terms – especially for providing MR related references beginning with the letter “Z”!)

Recent conversations with some of my more experienced and brilliant clients highlight several mistakes that they see occurring on an increasing basis that illustrate the dangers of conducting research that is poorly conceived and executed.



Insufficient investment Small sample sizes or not enough groups cause decisions to be made with limited, inconclusive or inaccurate data
Failure to define specific research objectives Generates data that does not answer the critical questions required to make “next step” business decisions and misses opportunities to explore important issues of interest
Using flawed test materials Makes the study results suspect due to bias or poor comparisons
Testing too late Project deadlines and the current state of development make the designated corrective actions unfeasible


I believe that one of the most common causes of these mistakes is a lack of “band-width” on the part of my corporate clients. It is important to note that this is not their fault. Almost all of my active clients find themselves in a situation where downsizing and budget cuts have increased their workloads to the extent that it seems impossible to give any one aspect of their jobs the attention it deserves. Add budget cuts and tighter development timelines to the mix and you greatly increase the likelihood of making one of the cited mistakes and generating “dangerous” market research findings.

Unfortunately, some respond to this dilemma by completely eliminating market research and developing new products without the guidance of ongoing customer feedback. I believe that this is a risky proposition on many levels.

My proposed solution is to hire a market research professional who can ensure that each study gets the attention it deserves. This previous post entitled, Is your market research firm SMALL enough to “DO IT ALL”? speaks to this issue.

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