“SURVEYS WORK WHEN DONE RIGHT!”
Looking at the illustration on this page, I am reminded of a time back in the 1970’s when I had the opportunity to learn a new industry and roll-out a new product to it. The memory also serves me to recall an important maxim, which I learned first-hand at that time. It is still true today: “Surveys work when done right.”
Market research benefits both consumer and manufacturer. One of them never pays with more than a few minutes of time; the other discovers that, done well, the profits from market research surveys will outweigh up-front costs. Every time.
Not many people reject being asked for their opinions. Most people, if asked nicely, will be open to a short survey. That so many businesses actually disdain market research benefits to save a few dollars by not conducting surveys, when as individuals they like answering surveys, is an oddity.
Perhaps the subject is misunderstood.
Since the product I represented, a nutritional supplement, was not in its natural industry — it was being sold direct to consumers and to doctors by letter promotions and follow-up phone calls — and company executives had not thought to try selling to that industry, I asked for permission to get it in there.
My proposal took little convincing. They green-lighted my project right away. After all, I offered a whole new market venue, a new source of potential income. If what I did was successful, sales in the added industry would be a brand-new income resource for the small company and its investors. They would reap many market research benefits.
The details of that product launch and some of the particulars about what happened are already written up in an earlier blog post of mine. The thrust of my message here, though related, is about market research benefits and designing correct surveys to obtain them.
This post is about asking the general public what they think of your product and its packaging before you roll it out at expense.
What You See is Less Than What You Get.
“The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST. If you pretest your product with consumers, and pretest your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace.” — David Ogilvy, “The Father of Advertising”
You would think that a product which had never been seen before, which would create a new category of product in retail stores, would be a difficult survey, but it turned out otherwise. A few words of mention about what the product was intended to produce — calmed nerves and muscles — made for easy survey Q&A interviews.
If there was a catch, however, it would be in the hours spent working out what questions to ask and why. A thorough study about market research benefits and the vagaries of fickle consumers led to an understanding of the type of questions to ask, and in what sequence.
In truth, nothing unusual there. Even the master chef restaurateur’s patrons never see the hours of hard work and fastidious attention to detail taking place inside of his kitchen, only the result: a delicious-looking presentation on the plate.
The simplicity of my survey activity and its subsequent success in profits was unbelievable! Only five questions were asked of only 50 people, who answered in-person in malls. The hours spent prepping the right questions paid off. Right away replies that would be usable in our roll-out stuck out like sore thumbs! We had runaway “hot buttons!”
Ask the Right Questions…
To obtain market research benefits one has to ask the right questions the right way. Observation of respondees’ general tone and their understanding of both product and questions, is a must. When it comes to achieving sought-after market research benefits, poor questions will lead only to unusable answers. Not observing tone and understanding misses the mark, because different people respond to the same question with the same words which, at times, come with entirely different meanings or intentions behind them.
Consider the person who sees life through rose-colored glasses, answering the question, “How are you doing today?” And another person, to whom life is nothing but a rat-race… would you expect their answers to be the same? Or have the same meaning?
When no answers stand out because of poor questions, more hours spent working out better questions is the only remedy. The yield of sloppy market research and survey construction is wasted time and more expense.
Would You Believe…
If I told you that the packaging, colors, item size, product container sizes, and text copy on our proposed labels all those years ago were all surveyed in less than three hours, and that the product we supplied and sold across many different outlets is today packaged exactly the same as what we rolled out in the 1970’s, and that it sells well, would you believe me?
Well, it’s true.
The real first test of our survey’s reliability came when we took our new product and packaging to a health foods industry trade show and in one weekend sold five times as much product as the whole small company had sold all year! Combined with a second trade show – a total of four days of product exposure and letting people try our sample packs overnight — we sold $56,000 of product! And since then, millions of dollars of real product sales over a span of almost 35 years.
The Arrogant Attitude
What of we had never surveyed at all? What if we had taken the arrogant route and assumed, as many others have, that we knew what the public would buy? That we knew what they would want to read and hear about our product?
Or figured that we could just get cute and clever with a marketing campaign slogan or gimmick and bring a windfall that way?
What if we failed, trying to save a few dollars?
To this day, I believe that the arrogant attitude that manufacturers know best for their public prevents market research benefits. A lot of good products never hit their stride in their respective marketplaces for want of a few hours of imaginative, soul-searching research work to develop the right survey questions.
Lacking the right questions coupled with the requisite observation and not listening closely enough to understand what consumers’ answers really add up to, many product roll-outs fail to meet expectations. The largest amount of money that businesses lose is the amount it would have earned had they known and applied the right know-how and surveyed to attain the most market research benefits possible.
Meeting Three Criteria
A product roll-out succeeds when three criteria are met:
- The quality and efficacy of the product are unquestionable. No amount of marketing is going to rescue a fundamentally flawed product that does not deliver at least what it promises.
- A product’s packaging, text copy and look-and-feel connect with its intended public.
- The public’s ideas of what the product is, what it can do for them, and how the product should be presented has been consulted.
Trying to get full market research benefits by saving a few dollars by not surveying the public will always leave some or all of your dollars on the floor; you just will never know how many or which ones before it’s too late, if ever. Know before you go.
“I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance.” — David Ogilvy
© 2014 by Ronald Joseph Kule. Reserved.