Marketing Progress

Marketing measures their effectiveness, but should also measure organizational effectiveness as perceived from outside. The fact is that all organizations want to make progress. Too often though, progress is equated with profit. Profit is only one form of progress. To not measure more meaningful aspects of progress might lead to eventual doom. Imagine that you could report to the CEO a fantastic year. Sales up. Net profits up. Total number of customer up. But let’s also assume that you failed to measure customer satisfaction, brand loyalty or relative market position. Next year you would likely be reporting plunging sales, no profits and a bleeding customer base. Every organization wants to make progress, but you have to define what is the progress that needs making. A 10% improvement in customer satisfaction might generate 20% more sales the following year with additional marketing spend. If you have not monitored customer satisfaction, then … Continue reading

Ridiculous Research

An ancient joke has a child looking into a telescope and saying “Daddy, the universe is a very small place” to which the patient father replies “You are looking through the wrong end.” Oddly, this describes the effect of misguided market research. The twin goals of market research are to identify missions to take, then how to accomplish those missions. The mission may be to reduce cost, grow revenues, expand market share. But unless you know what mission you need the take, you can never know what research you need in order to accomplish that mission. This recently came to light when the good folks at Zintro asked me to participate on a panel where selected experts explain the most common mistakes in market research. Of the two mistakes I cited, not understanding the problem to be solved was a primary ill. Some companies have offered Silicon Strategies good money … Continue reading

Research Perspective

America ranks near the bottom of the list for violent crimes in industrialized countries. This is not the perspective most people have (though some clever folks at an overseas justice ministry discovered this with some groundbreaking multinational research). Thanks to the news media and some serious inner-city problems, Americans and the rest of the world views the U.S. as a deadly place, despite violent crime rates dropping precipitously over the past few decades. Perception can be distorting. A lot of companies have inaccurate perceptions of themselves, and this leads to inaccurate research. I was polled by Zintro on the most common mistakes clients make in market research. Biased perspective was my top choice for research wrecking errors. If one asks the wrong question, the answer is typically meaningless. If one has an improper perspective, they tend to ask the wrong question. Hence if an executive is viewing his market, his … Continue reading

Question Yourself

Take your market research seriously … unless you didn’t take it seriously from the beginning. It is relatively easy to screw-up market research because there are many ways to do so. The most careful of statistical validation calculations are meaningless if you asked New Guinea tribesmen their first class cabin cocktail preferences. The heart of research (market and marketing research included) is knowing what you need to learn, learning it correctly, then applying it appropriately. That last one can be tough for start-ups when visionary founders resent market researchers telling them that their baby is ugly. There is no way to exhaust the list of methods for creating lousy research, but some of my favorites include: Not having a business purpose behind the research My first question to executives looking for primary market research is … Continue reading

Changing Markets

Start-up CEOs constantly talk about managing growth, but rarely about managing change (growth being only one type of change). It happens a thousand times faster in technology markets. Marketing must monitor markets, and identify changes early on (though the better approach is to keep reinventing the market yourself and driving your competitors nuts in the process). Here are a few things to watch, some of which you likely are not. Competitors and partners Competitors never sleep, and are trying to reinvent themselves, market expectations and the shape of the known universe. Monitoring what they do as well as what they say is important. What they do exposes areas of the market they think are of growing or shrinking importance, and this needs to be folded into your positioning planning. What they say reveals … Continue reading


If going with your gut is a good idea, does indigestion affect your decision? A recent eruption on an executives’ forum centered on the role of gut instinct in decision making, which applies to marketing as well. One camp lobbied for using detailed marketing research to make sound and measurable business decisions. The other mob insisted some things are beyond research, and that instincts about market shifts were not to be ignored. Both were right … and wrong. Market research is wonderful. I make good money doing it for businesses around the world. But even reams of quality information may not present the whole picture. When Steve Jobs and crew developed the iPhone, there was a leap of faith concerning the readiness of the market for an entirely new mobile computing paradigm (well, not entirely new … Palm had mastered pocket devices without cellular connections for years). Research might confirm … Continue reading

Survey Sadism

I was abused for want of a smoothie. I have recently habituated Jamba Juice, a now sprawling franchise that started SLO (San Luis Obispo). In a well-intended effort to assure satisfaction, they randomly offer customers the opportunity to get two smoothies for the price of one if they complete an online survey. Nice approach, and I was willing to participate given that I perform a lot of market research via surveys and understand the benefits. Willing that is until I hit the second screen. After passing the first page of questions, their survey software politely announced that I was 3% done – I had a long road still ahead. I continued, mainly to see how long and horrible their survey instrument might be and did not find out for another five minutes. Avoiding critiques about some survey mechanics (there were flaws), I can safely say the survey was far too … Continue reading