Save Your Silver Bullets for Slaying Werewolves: Marketing And Marketing Research Require An Arsenal Of Understanding

By Jay L. Roth, President, J. L. Roth & Associates,

Magic bullets only exist in fairy tales and fantasies. Marketing success requires understanding consumer needs (be they the needs of a business or an individual) and magic bullets remain un-forged.

True understanding comes from listening to and observing people and using empathy and insight to provide them with products, services and experiences that fulfill their needs. Marketing research came into being to help companies gain this understanding, especially as companies grew and became less directly involved with their customers. As eye contact and handshakes became less common, ways were needed to know the markets’ needs.

In recent years a number of “experts” have claimed to have found magic bullets, which provide “THE” path to marketing success or at least are superior to all other paths. These include people, who promote “Net Promoter” as the single question to tell companies what to do to succeed, those who have said its time to be less dependent on information and more frequently use our intuition a la “Blink,” those that say focus groups are dead and promote the ZMET Research Process, those that say online research is the only way to cost effectively conduct marketing research and those that promote “Black Box” models.

My response simply stated – No magic single measure exists and research has proven faults with all of these perspectives. Life isn’t that simple. We must beware of false prophets and any tool a consultant sells, but can’t clearly explain so you understand it. Different research tools (AKA research methods) are needed based on the audiences you are looking to understand and what you are trying to learn.

What is needed is to start at the beginning – a philosophy and the issues needing to be addressed.

If you believe marketing is a business philosophy based on developing products and services that fulfill a consumer’s needs and says it is easier to sell someone something they want/need, then it should be crystal clear we must understand people’s needs so we can satisfy them – make them happy. A corollary to this core principal is businesses are made up of people and therefore everything we say about understanding and fulfilling people’s needs applies to businesses (albeit complicated by the needs of the different people making decisions in the business.) If you disagree with these premises, stop reading now.

When invited to write this guest blog for the AMA, a number of related questions were posed to me:

1. What component/factor do most people overlook when they conduct market research?

2. What mistakes do people make in interpreting/applying their findings?

3. Will online marketing research ever completely replace offline research?

4. How does marketing research influence/correspond to marketing metrics?

The answers to questions 1-3 can be summed up by the following statement — Successful marketing research and marketing require we clearly define the business issues and the key gaps in information which exist. This means we need to understand:

· Our company’s or client’s business and the business issues the company is addressing.

· Who the target audience is – who are you trying to satisfy and make happy. Remember:

About 30% of the population isn’t online – until everyone is online or unless all of your target audience is online, you’ll need alternative ways of collecting information.

About 25% have no land telephone line – if you only call landlines you’ll under represent younger and more mobile people.

· What motivates the company’s/client’s customers to do business with them?

· The competitive frame of reference and how your brand/company fits into the frame of reference.

· The current marketing mix – product, price, promotion and place (and yes the internet is a place)

The biggest mistakes people make, when requesting, conducting and interpreting marketing research, are related to how they define their business issues. Too often people go down the wrong path or get answers to the wrong questions because they haven’t properly defined their business issue. If one defines the business issue incorrectly, the wrong people are asked the wrong questions and the wrong behaviors get observed/measured. The result equals failure to get the guidance needed. Clearly defining the business issues is critical to getting the information needed and assuring the information gained is useful/actionable.

In terms of the question, “How does marketing research influence/correspond to marketing metrics?”

The answer is: The best marketing metrics are those which assure your customers’ needs are fulfilled by your company while also meeting the company’s financial goals. If your marketing research has been conducted so you truly understand your consumers’ needs and you’ve established processes to meet these needs, your metrics should be closely tied to the research. If not, something is awry.

While silver bullets may remain great for killing fictional werewolves, a knowledgeable marketing researcher with a sound grounding in marketing theory and practice owns an arsenal of tools to provide the guidance you need to succeed. Let them help you slay your marketing beasties and fulfill people’s needs so your company lives happily ever after.