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All You Ever Needed to Know about Market Research You Can Learn
Hiking(1) (Marketing Memo, August, 2004)
A colleague and I regularly hike up a small nearby mountain. For us,
hiking provides food for the soul, exercise for the body, and, when
we are at the summit, an opportunity to brainstorm and scope assignments.
Here are eight tips that apply to hiking and market research challenges
- A change of scenery helps you view things in a new light. Amazingly,
you may think of a different way to interpret data or a new source
to check that didn't occur to you before you stepped back from your
tasks. One worker solved business problems walking downstairs to get
- Start out with a plan to avoid getting lost. Conducting market
research is a messy, unstructured activity, particularly if the assignment
is vague, and you have little guidance. Whether you have too much
data, too little data, or the wrong data, begin with a list of objectives
that you can expand. This will keep you from needlessly "spinning
- Be willing to re-direct if your original plan appears flawed. If
necessary, change methods, resources, or even goals. A foreign firm
expected to emulate the success of a large American retailer by discovering
and replicating its organizational structure. Research revealed that
other aspects of the retailer's strategy were more important to its
success than its structure.
- Start early so that you don't have to take risks to reach your
destination. Allowing enough time to find and check facts and assumptions
is critical. When organizations make major decisions under duress,
the results are often disastrous.
- You will reach your destination more quickly if you have the right
resources. For research, your "compass" could be a special publication
or database or online resource. As always, having the right tools
saves time and helps you obtain better results.
- Nothing is as it seems. Investigate. A telecom start-up blamed its
disappointing sales on the difficulty of transitioning from providing
products to providing services. Probing revealed that salespeople
couldn't gain access to decision-makers, which suppressed sales.
- If you only look directly ahead, you won't see the big picture.
When you are mired in data, it is sometimes difficult to see trends
and form conclusions. Step back and articulate three or four findings.
Ask, "What are the three or four main points I want to impart."
- When you lose your bearings, retrace your steps and start over.
Take another look at the data to discover new trends. You may also
find gaps in your data that need filling.
- When you can't find your way, seek guidance. Winett Associates helps
companies answer a variety of questions, from "How is our target market
currently solving the problems we solve?" to "What companies make
good acquisition candidates?"
(1)Apologies to Robert Fulghum, author of All I Ever Needed to Know
I Learned in Kindergarten.
Winett Associates provides market research and writing services
for high tech companies.