You Don’t Need Me
My primary job is marketing researcher. A lot of people think consumer research is overrated. “I could do that. What’s the big deal? We know what our customers want. Besides, how hard is it to ask somebody what they want?”
My initial, unfiltered, short-sighted, defensive, irresponsible, gut response is to take slight effront: “$%^& you, you ignorant bramblebush!* You have no idea what the heck you’re doing. I’m a highly trained professional. I’m like a brain surgeon who cuts to the heart of things, but without a knife or blood.”
Then thankfully the Prefrontal Cortex works to stop such a rash outburst.
You are right. You could do your own research. You should do your own research. You better know a lot about your customers and your industry, probably a lot more than I do—or why be in that business? There are so many tools out there that enable anyone to do structured research. Some of them are even good, and you should use them. Every interaction with your customers is a research opportunity. Monitoring social media is research. Paying attention to what’s happening in the culture is research. It’s all important. Everyone in your organization can participate. Each piece adds something to the puzzle—a new perspective. Gather ye harvest!
(*I have no idea the intelligence level of a bramble bush, or any other bush for that matter.)
Ok, Maybe You Do Need Me
But there’s a lot of input out there. There’s always something else to learn: a nugget, a kernel, a bite, a morsel or other small portion of food metaphor—an insight that could provide the basis for an ad campaign or new product line or packaging or new way to think about your brand. There’s always another perspective to consider.
Making sense of it all is another story. Sorting out what you know in your gut and how people actually think and feel can be challenging. We are irrational creatures, and we don’t realize it. Our beliefs and feelings are not dictated by reason—neither are many (most?) of our actions. We often don’t know why we do what we do, even if we think we do. That said, our perceptions matter, even if they lead us astray. Experts named Dan Ariely,Daniel Goleman, Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Pink, Daniel Levitin possibly my longtime friend, Dan Feldman, and other non-Dans have spoken way more eloquently and elaborately than I on this subject.
Knowing how to make people feel comfortable enough to share their perspectives, how to ask questions in a way that encourages candor and allows them to react rather than over-think….that’s when it helps to have a professional researcher…someone who’s willing to explore the whole person—what makes her tick, support, reject, buy, laugh, cry, snap…someone who knows not only how to ask questions that help people delve beneath the surface, but someone who knows how to listen to—and make sense of—their answers.