We’re filling out a survey from our homeowner’s insurance company. I guess they want to make sure that we’ve got ample coverage in case a party gets out of hand and we need to rebuild Rancho Deluxe. One of the questions reads as follows:
Percentage of the interior walls that are plaster
Hmm. Would that be the percentage based on the number of walls, the percentage plaster represents of square wall footage, or something else? After all, in a rectangular room, if one long wall is plaster, then the right answer may be 25% or it may be 40%. How accurate does this response need to be?
There’s actually an excellent business point contained in that silliness. It’s not enough to ask the right questions. We also need to ask them in the right way so we get the expected, actionable data. In the example above, while my answer isn’t a huge data set, when aggregated into the other data the company is pulling together, the sampling error will be larger than it needs to be since half the respondents can respond using one way to look at the question and half the other.
Obviously, it’s not just a lack of clarity that can affect the outcome and usefulness of your research. Asking leading questions which are almost certain to elicit a particular response is bad as well (do you do XYZ every day?). So can asking open-ended questions since there is no guarantee that anyone will focus on the specific area you’re researching. Then there are the folks who overlap responses (how old are you – 18-21, 21-30 – how does a 21-year-old respond?). Or ask loaded questions (how long ago did you stop beating your spouse?).
Asking questions is really important but asking badly structured questions is a waste of time. Clear?
Filed under Consulting, Huh?
Every so often a piece of research comes along that asks the same questions of consumers and marketers and then compares the answers. It’s instructive to see the differences in how the folks who are responsible for knowing how their consumers see the world vs. how those consumers themselves see it. The latest example of this comes from the folks at Spong, and their 2015 Brand Reputation Study. Their release on the information begins with this:
An organization’s brand is one of its most valuable assets. Greatly influenced by the reputation of the organization, the strength and weaknesses of a brand can have a direct impact on every aspect of the business, including the bottom line. But when it comes to evaluating what is most important or least important about a brand, a new brand reputation study from Spong indicates that marketers may not really understand what consumers care about and think.
Hmm. That doesn’t sound particularly good, but what does it mean in real terms? First and foremost, it turns out that marketers overestimate how often consumers talk about brands. Marketers seem to think that consumers chat about what companies are doing a poor job, with 88% of marketers saying they think consumers do so daily or weekly. The reality is that fewer than a third (31%) do so. While a little paranoia is a good thing, I suspect this thinking leads into another data point the survey found.
Marketers underrate editorial and overrate social as a source of information, with 14% of consumers calling editorial a top source of accurate brand information. Only 6% of marketers think consumers see it that way. Conversely, we’re smarter than most marketers are about the accuracy of social media. 27% of marketers think consumers use it as an accurate source of brand information; the real number is less than half that (13%).
Consumers also put more importance on whether a brand is local far more often than marketers think consumers do. 30% of shoppers said they would always or most of the time choose local over national brands, all things being equal while only 12% of marketers would expect that sentiment. I guess the point is that once again, those of us who are supposed to have our finger on our customers’ pulses have missed the boat. As they summed up:
The research paints a picture that should serve as a wake-up call for marketers, whose stock in trade is understanding what triggers consumer behavior. As the research reveals, marketers over-valued a few key customer concerns at the expense of the wide range of other issues affecting their decision-making.
I agree wth that. You?