Group Speak

By: Troy Nottingham
October 6, 2015

Don’t Do Research

Three of the toughest words for me to say.  And, generally, some of the best advice I can give.  Consider the source when I say this … after all, I sell research for a living.  But, the truth is there are times when research is just not the best way to spend your money – no matter how much it pains me to say it.

Not long ago a prospective client called to say the company was embarking on a marketing campaign across three cities (B markets) and wanted to measure the effectiveness of the campaign – with a benchmark prior to the start of the campaign and a follow-up wave after the campaign had run its course.

Awesome!  Tell me a little bit about this campaign.  Who’s our target?  People who have purchased a sprinkler system for their home in the past 12 months.  Hmmmm.  Not exactly the dime a dozen, find them on any street corner kind of person.  Which means we won’t be able to do this work online – not enough online panel sample in the world to find such a low incidence group in 3 mid-size markets.  So, phone is our only option – and it’s not going to be cheap because these people will be hard to find.

Not as awesome as I originally suspected.  So, my next question was about the media spend.  So, how much are you planning to spend on the media for this campaign?  $475,000.   Hmmmm.

A pre-post evaluation of the impact of the marketing campaign in this particular situation is likely to cost 10% to 15% of their entire media spend.  I couldn’t in good conscious recommend this kind of investment in the research.   Funny though…sometimes when you say “no” it makes people want you all the more.  I call it the Chick-fil-a Syndrome – I never crave Chick-fil-a as much as I do on Sundays (when they are closed).  So, the client says – but I have to measure the effectiveness or how else am I going to justify the expense to my boss?

Hard to argue with that question.   But, still, not a good idea.  Experience has shown me that, no matter how killer the campaign is, the impact this kind of expenditure … across THREE markets … is not going to be great and is likely not to surface in a tracking study.  But, the discipline of spending on marketing to build business is exactly what this particular company needed to embrace.

My recommendation:  don’t do the research.  Instead, put everything into running as much media as you can.   The logic:  this campaign could be exactly what you need to move the needle…but it might not register in sales or in the survey.  Not because it is not the right thing to do or that it won’t eventually pay out, but because you haven’t put enough behind the effort to see an immediate change.  So, the likely result:  the campaign gets killed and the baby (great campaign) is thrown out with the bath water (insufficient dollars spent during the time in the market).  In this case, the right answer is spend all you can on the media…you are likely to need it more there.

You see, sadly enough, sometimes the best solution is don’t do the research.  I just wish I didn’t have to be the one to say it.