Why do some organisations invest heavily and spend a disproportionate portion of their time in analysing their markets, their businesses and their consumers, while others prefer to rely on their foresight and gut instincts? The difference is not the attitude but the approach.
Research by itself will not dramatically change an organisation. It is only the pipeline through which consumers communicate with companies. Organisations have to be prepared to act upon the findings.
All market research should have clear objectives. Initiating research without objectives is like setting off on a drive without a destination. It should solve a clearly-enunciated business problem.
Market research has to be tempered with organisational understanding. The knowledge resident in the field, the insights gained by managers and the deep-rooted understanding of industry has to supplement the information and knowledge that research throws up.
Research tends to be backward-looking giving you a good view of the past but the future can only be seen through the eyes of the foresighted.
Sales managers tend to focus on the immediate and are operational in outlook. Often, they have a very good understanding of current problems. Blended with trends and the understanding that research throws up, the insights are valuable.
Hence, market research needs to find a place for itself in the sales department. When this combination works in tandem, the business and sales problems seem like a breeze.
This combination is often the perfect recipe that organisations struggle to find. Market visits of sales and marketing personnel; first-hand knowledge from consumers and dealers; comparison of performance with other categories and industries; a general appreciation of economic, social and cultural change all these provide nuggets of wisdom that integrate with research in providing the tools to solve business problems.
Why did this strategy not work as planned? How do we drive growth in a flat market? How do we grab share from our competitors? These issues confront organisations but the answers are often not available within. Market research helps to supplement the knowledge base within an organisation.
Researchers, with their contemporary research expertise, are often able to see parallels or opportunities. The birth of an idea is often mid-wifed by market research. How well you respect it and how well you do not override it or get overridden by it will determine the optimal and satisfactory use of market research.
Market research will never provide you with all the answers. In fact, it might not even address all the problems. Research techniques have their limitations since they do not simulate real-life consumer situations.
Moreover, consumers do not necessarily behave as they say. So, blind adoption of research recommendations is to be avoided. But it is an invaluable prop that can help solve business problems.