The right questions to ask a market long before you go to market

Posted: October 19, 2010 in Apple, customers/buyers, marketing
Tags: , ,
Ask the right questions, get the right answers, build the right product.  Easy, right?

In journalism and in police work, the five Ws — who, what, when, where and why — amount to the framework of investigation and the building blocks of a story or case.  In marketing, the same Ws apply.  But the order is slightly different.  The first question to ask: Why?  Why are we engaged in this effort in the first place?  If the reason is valid, you then gather the data you need to answer the second question: Who, as in who is the target of this effort?  That determined, you now have some notion about what it will take to get this target to act.  Only then can you determine the where and when of the “what” it is you’re up to.

Just remember that this is an exercise all about asking the right questions. Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer.  Get the wrong answer(s) and you mobilize the wrong effort (read: waste a lot of money).

This is one of the great problems of today’s Internet-driven, DIY world.  There are countless amateur pollsters and market researchers crawling all over the Web today.  They work hard, they are resourceful, they are astute and, more often than not, they are gathering garbage.  As in garbage in, garbage out.

The wrong questions do not yield useful information.  Ask any cop.   The secret sauce is in the right question(s).  As BrandSavant (AKA Tom Webster) says, “The really great questions…are the ones that reveal what (users, customers) want, need and desire without them having to articulate what they want, need and desire”.

Would an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad have been developed if Apple had merely asked focus groups what they wanted in music, telecommunication or mobile computing?  The apocryphal story here is the one about Henry Ford saying that before the automobile was a reality, people told him what they really wanted in transportation was faster horses.  Here’s Webster again:

“No one is passionate about a product they haven’t seen yet. The art and skill of the research professional is to ask the questions that can root out that passion without placing a cognitive burden on the respondent, or requiring them to do your jobs as marketers.

“In market research, as in computer science and cooking, one law remains true: garbage in, garbage out. I earn my keep asking questions. I’m humbled and grateful when people ask me to help analyze their data, but the truth is – you asked me too late”.


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