Marketing research is an essential effort that allows brands to better understand their customers, competitive environment, and the effectiveness of their current marketing activities, including advertising. While the discipline has been around since the 1930s, the internet has radically changed how research is conducted, with traditional methods such as focus groups yielding to online polling and other web-based methods of gathering information.

Will Consumers Actually Do What They Say They Will Do?

While marketing research’s data-gathering methods may have changed, the central question of marketing research — whether consumers will actually do what they tell the researcher they intend to do — remains a thorny issue. Unless this question can be answered affirmatively and decisively, the value of marketing research remains uncertain.

“That’s the million dollar question,” notes Maria Vorovich, an award-winning strategist and cofounder of GoodQues, a marketing research firm whose website brands it as “the anti-research research company,” in a recent interview with Kevin Lee for the eMarketing Association.

Getting to the truth about how consumers are truly feeling and are likely to behave means employing principles of psychology — particularly those from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. As Vorovich observes, the objective is “to get to these insights — to get to what people actually need, even if it’s unsaid or they don’t even know they need it” and doing so often means creatively using indirect, often unorthodox research methods.

“My favorite example of this scenario is actually around the 2016 election. When pollsters went out and asked people ‘who are you going to vote for?’ — that was the question: it was very square and very straight on. And as we saw from the polls, the majority of people said ‘Hillary Clinton.'” “There was only one pollster who thought ‘I am going to ask ‘who are you going to vote for?’ and ‘who is your neighbor going to vote for?’ And the (answer to the question) ‘who is your neighbor going to vote for?’ largely predicted Trump.”

Evaluating the Value of Marketing Research

While the ROI of many of today’s marketing channels – particularly paid media — can be easily quantified, establishing the ROI of marketing research is a more difficult task. Unfortunately, this often deters brands from adequately investing in marketing research, one of whose main purposes is to yield more efficient, more effective advertising. So how does one go about demonstrating the value of marketing research?

According to GoodQues’ Holland Martini, the value of research is self-evident among brands that invest enough to truly understand their consumers. “We’ve done some research and it’s really simply put: people are likely to spend 20 percent more on a brand they think is listening to them. And research is all about listening to consumers. So if you want to put an ROI on that, put ’20 percent sales increase.’ It’s all about resonating and making sure that you’re in touch with your consumers.”

“Even if you only have the budget to ask one question, that is better than nothing,” notes Ms. Holland. “That is still some sort of direction that is some sort of compass to make sure you’re going the right way. Otherwise, it’s ‘the blind leading the blind.’ You’re a brand, you’re in your own brand world, and you’re telling people within the brand what to do, and you really have no general idea of what the consumer is doing and what they need to hear from you.”

You can view Kevin Lee’s interview with Maria Vorovich and Holland Martini at the URL below:

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