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Avoid These 5 Market Research Mistakes

Author: Elizabeth Cotner Date: February 04, 2011

Your business won’t succeed if you don’t know what your customers want.

 Market research can help you learn more about customer preferences and needs and inform your business decisions. But if you don’t do it right, you’ll lose time, money and insight into your target market. 

Linda Pophal, CEO and owner of Strategic Communications LLC, a marketing communications and consulting firm in Chippewa Falls, Wisc., shares some of the most common mistakes small business owners make when it comes to market research: 

1.  Making assumptions. It’s easy for business owners to think they know best. But what the owner thinks about a price point or an attribute of a product, for example, isn’t necessarily what customers want or like. “There can be a tendency to consider our experiences…to be representative of an audience at large where it may very well not be,” Pophal says. Base your decisions on data rather than on speculation. 

2.  Conducting unnecessary research. Owners often fail to use the data they already have, and instead conduct additional research. Say an online retailer wants to test out a new product. The owner probably has a list of items that people have purchased and could use it to determine the potential success of the new product. “They could save time and money by taking a look at what they have,” Pophal says. 

3.  Relying on qualitative research. Relying solely on customer interviews and focus groups isn’t always statistically reliable. Doing quantitative research, such as in-depth surveys with numbers-based responses, provides greater insight into customer preferences, and gives you data you can analyze and chart mathematically. 

4.  Asking the wrong questions. It’s important to ask clear, concise questions to get reliable data. Asking two questions at once, such as “Were you satisfied with our services and response time?” would be better asked separately. Don’t ask open-ended questions such as “How well do you like our service?” to avoid making assumptions. And finally, don’t ask questions about things you don’t intend to change, since it may give your audience false expectations. Test your survey with 10 to 15 people before conducting it to avoid these pitfalls. 

5.  Dismissing results. Pophal often sees business owners ignoring the results of their research when they’re not in line with their own ideas. Be open-minded and willing to consider the results, Pophal says. In addition, the more statistically reliable your data is, the less likely you are to discount it.

Related Resource: 5 Keys to Market Research Success

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