A lot of time, attention, and energy is dedicated to the technical side of implementing a survey – choosing the methodology, sizing the sample, writing the questionnaire and so on – while keeping the budget under control.
And it’s a good thing – a hasty implementation is often leading to poor results and a lot of frustration on all sides.
Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of another aspect of the marketing research, too often overlooked.
I’m talking about selecting the research objectives, before starting work on the implementation in earnest.
Imagine you are building a survey to measure brand image, among other things. Obviously, in order to know your relative position in the market, you will track at least one of your competitors too, not just yourself.
In the brand section, the plan is to have a first part with a few questions which will provide a high-level picture of the brands, followed by an extremely detailed diagnostic second part designed to gather data which your marketing department will use as an input for fine-tuning your brand.
The natural impulse would be to apply the full section to all brands.
My questions would be:
Is it worth it? What are going to do to with all this wealth of information?
You will gain a detailed image of all the brands, at the expense of an overextended brand section, which means losing valuable questionnaire space, not to mention the additional strain of respondents.
I would argue anytime this indiscriminate gathering of data, while apparently useful, is a waste of resources. Knowing a very lot about competitors’ brands is fine and dandy, but in fact is an unnecessary distraction. In the end, you can turn only the knobs of your brand.
What if you apply to all brands the high-level questions and keep the detailed diagnostic section for you brand only?
This way, you can see your position relative to competitors and also gather the information required to help you adjust your brand, while keeping the questionnaire simpler and friendlier. Or you can use the freed questionnaire space to investigate other pressing subjects.
So, if you are planning to have an in-depth evaluation of any of your competitors’ features (related to either brand, product, pricing or customer experience) while being aware you will be not able to use the results in any meaningful way, I’ll say: Don’t bother. It’s an awkward situation to find yourself in when, AFTER the results are in, you suddenly realize a significant amount of data is of little or no use and this could have been prevented from the with just a bit more thought invested in planning.
If you are planning to test your own concepts while you know you will not be able to implement them in a reasonable time frame, I’ll say again: Don’t bother. By the time you will be ready to launch the market has moved, the conditions will be different and you will have to start the testing from the scratch anyway, so why do it in the first place...?
It is said Information is Power. Plain and simple, isn’t it?
Keep in mind though, the really powerful Information is the one you can act upon.