Successful Market Research Finds
What is Hidden in Plain Sight
(Successful Market Research Begins with Knowing
Where & How to Look)
Using the right market research methodology is the difference between success and failure.
Many of my clients face the same dilemma. Their products and services are held in high esteem in the industry. Survey acknowledge them as industry leaders, if the industry leaders. Their technology is at the bleeding edge, the state of the art for their industry.
And yet all is not well. They lose sales bids to competitors – often, one main competitor. Clients are lost to smaller competitors that are not seen as major threats. Customer satisfaction surveys, however, indicate that customers give the client company high scores for their products and services, and some of these respondents are the ones who inexplicably move over to the competition.
How does one reconcile these contradictory signals: praise and a strong reputation on the one hand and loss of sales and client base on the other?
The trick is knowing where to look.
Methodology May Influence the Results
Research methodologies may influence results because of in-built biases.
Let us look at traditional quantitative surveys as an example. This type of research methodology is often used in customer satisfaction studies.
What are the factors that can create built-in biases?
First, the responses are provided “after the fact”, that is, the responses are provided after an event like a sales transaction. This means that the respondent relies on memory, which may not be accurate. Certain moments of the sales transaction may stand out in the respondent’s memory: these may block out other moments that may be just as significant but overlooked.
Second, respondents may self-censor themselves because they may be uncomfortable with expressing negative feelings against other people. These create a bias toward positive aspects of the sales experience. There are others who, on the other hand, tend to focus on what they perceive as negative aspects of their sales experience, and so create a bias toward negativity.
Third, questionnaire design may distort the results. For example, if the survey does not have questions addressing issues that are of concern to the respondents, then the results will be lacking the insights that would have been derived from a survey with those questions included.
Fourth, what respondents say in surveys is not as important as what they do in real-world situations.
It’s Not What They Say, It’s What They Do
If what people do is more important than what they say, then what market research methodology is best suited to capture people in what they “do”? How does one get a better understanding of what transpires in a sales transaction?
The best methodology is mystery shopping. This is especially the case in B2B sales transactions, something that is rarely seen but is an integral part of doing business. B2B mystery shopping has helped businesses by providing the insights they need to overcome competitor sales tactics and to uncover weakness in their product and service offerings.
Simply put, B2B mystery shopping (especially if they are recorded) provides insights that are missed by other methodologies. Biases that distort results in traditional market research (reliance on memory, self-censorship, etc.) are eliminated. B2B mystery shopping reveals real-time and real-world interactions between sales representatives and customers. Contradictions between what respondents say and what they do are eliminated.
B2B mystery shopping is money well-spent because it provides actionable intelligence that cannot be refuted.
Conclusion: Unraveling the Enigma for Informed Business Decisions
This article set out to demonstrate the key role research methodology in determining whether actionable intelligence is obtained, intelligence that can be used to make informed business decisions. It showed how traditional market research methodologies, which depend on memory, can lead to biased results that cannot be trusted. Finally, it briefly demonstrated that mystery shopping, especially B2B mystery shopping, is a methodology that eliminates any bias caused by faulty memory and self-censorship, while at the same time providing portrayals of real-time and real-world interactions between salespeople and customers.
Many of our clients have benefitted from our B2B mystery shopping and competitor research and analysis services. We have helped clients to quickly turnaround sales losses into sales wins by uncovering weaknesses in their products that were missed by other vendors.
In this case, the research methodology is the medium through which a market research project succeeds or fails. The derived content (the insights and actionable intelligence derived from the data) is influenced by the quality of the raw content (data). The raw content (data) is influenced by the research methodology used to execute the project.