Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

bad marketing research exampleI see alot of misplaced gusto for marketing. Some of it comes in the form of bad print or broadcast advertising. And while bad ads or bad media buys are not as effective as they could be, at least they’re reaching some audience. They’re not causing the business any harm.

But one of the biggest marketing mistakes that businesses make that CAN cause harm is doing marketing research incorrectly.

Now, marketing research is GOOD. It’s one of the best things you can do to make sure that you’re getting the most out of marketing. The problem happens when people assume that they can quickly throw together a survey or focus group and get some data to work with. There are many little things that can be missed when designing a marketing research project that will drastically change the results. You need to have some idea of what you’re doing or hire a reputable firm to do it for you.

I’ve personally seen some really bad practices….

There was the business owner who wanted to do a “focus group”. He invited his friend, his friend’s wife, and some other people he knew. And then, he personally moderated the group. Shockingly, he was very pleased with what the group had to say.

There was the doctor who mailed out a massive survey to find out the age distribution and other demographic data in his city. He was shocked when I told him that his tax dollars were already being used to pay Census workers to gather this exact information and much more for him and that he could fully access the data.

I’ve seen hundreds of comment cards that were either designed to prompt an incorrect response or too confusing/long to provide useful feedback. The big sin with comment cards is usually the return methodology. It’s either a box located in the midst of employees who you’re commenting on…or makes you put a stamp and your return address on it.

And I’m sure you’ve seen numerous examples of one of the worst mistakes now happening in marketing research…the web survey. You do NOT have a good sample of people who come to a website to conduct accurate research. Take results from a web survey with a grain of salt unless your business is completely online.

The big trouble is that when you “do research” and then publish the numbers, it becomes real. When people are shown statistics, very few question the methodology that was used to get the numbers. Bad decisions are made with bad information. Then there’s a backlash of not trusting research…which should not be the case.

The truth is that marketing research is quick and easy to do wrong. It’s expensive and/or time consuming to do right. And it’s too important to mess up.

tags::

One thought on “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”

  1. I know it’s not hugely scientific, but I’m sure with a little imagination a decent blog could provide businesses with very useful focus group style feedback.

    Comments from existing customers, passing traffic, a few people you direct to the site could all prove to be valuable.

    Is this plausible or is online research always a little dubious?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *