What's the Problem?



Does spending more on market research guarantee product success?

No. You have to be doing the right kind of customer research and at the right time. You need to know how to do this research.

Gerald Zaltman takes on the problem of market research missing customer needs directly in his book "How Customers Think -- the mind of the market." Consider these excerpts:

"... price, demonstrated product effectiveness, and even consumers' confidently stated claims simply don't reliably predict what consumers will actually do." (Zaltman, p. 55)
"A great mismatch exists between the way consumers experience and think about their world and the methods marketeers use to collect this information." (Zaltman, p. 37)
"... most market research methods are biased toward reason and away from emotion."
"Why? It's less messy to interpret ..." (Zaltman, p. 38-39)
"Traditional quantitative and qualitative methods work well in several circumstances: when managers have substantial brand and category knowledge, when little has changed among consumers or in the competitive environment, where consumers can readily articulate what they think, and where issues of recall are not present or relevant." (Zaltman, p. 74)

Conventional market research methods are tactical, not strategic. They are good later in the development cycle to help you refine your solution. They are not so good at helping you uncover the breakthrough ideas to make sure you are working on the right solution to the right problem in the first place.

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Why don't conventional market research methods find breakthrough ideas?

Because they usually focus customer attention on solutions rather than explore problems.

Griffin again:

"The most successful product development efforts match a set of fully understood customer problems to a cost-competitive solution to those problems." (Griffin, p 212)

Customers are experts about what their problems are, not solutions.

Sheila Mello takes it further in her book. :

"The company doesn't always know best and the customer is not always right." She paraphrases former Chrysler CEO Bob Lutz as saying " ... customers don't always know what they want ... you can't expect your customers to do your creative work ... If you build only known features into your products, you are not differentiating your product from your competitors' products." (Mello p. 22)

So conventional market research suffers some serious drawbacks that make it inappropriate for uncovering the deeper root needs of the customer where the greatest value is.

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What is a specific disadvantage of conventional market research?

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