Tag Archives: market research

Research Integrity: The Achilles Heel of Content Marketing

The marketing profession has a reputation for sometimes using less than reliable market research to promote a point of view. And this marketer has been guilty of that sin.

Years ago, our insurance company client was introducing a new Directors & Officers liability insurance policy, and asked us to raise market awareness. With good intentions, but given no budget or time to perform proper market research, we interviewed a total of 6 corporate CEOs and board members to provide some validation to the underlying premise of our press release. The headline read: “Most Corporate Directors & Officers Believe They Are Not Protected Properly from Legal Risk.”

With very little expectation that a premise based on such shoddy research would qualify for exposure in the financial press, and dreading inquiries from journalists asking about our research methodology, the release went out. To our great surprise, we received no calls from reporters checking the facts, and the story was immediately picked up by two major wire services, and appeared as a news squib on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, followed by coverage in several business insurance trade publications.

Our client was overjoyed with the media exposure, but we felt less than honorable, and resolved that we would never use market research to promote a client’s product or service unless we believed the supporting methodology had sufficient rigor. And over the years we’ve lost work as a result.

Research integrity was an issue long before the internet became the platform for content marketing. Most often, your research-based news items would not be covered by respected media sources unless you ran the credibility gauntlet. Editors demanded your research methods and data, and had to be convinced that your study was objective and legitimate. Our very thin D&O liability research was a rare and risky exception…and perhaps a sign of things to come.

For well understood reasons, the “legitimate press” now has neither the manpower nor the time to dig deeply for validation of market research that supports content generated by organizations. The loss of this important filter, coupled with the explosion of online content, has created a marketing world in which sloppy, incomplete (and sometimes blatantly false) research generates news items that can go viral and become accepted wisdom. Pumping out content in volume has become far more important than creating high quality content that could withstand the scrutiny of a hard-nosed editor.

What this new world of content marketing means for individuals is simple: assume that all “research-based” information requires close scrutiny. Believe nothing at face value. If it’s important to your business strategy, or you intend to adopt the research to support your own point of view (or upcoming PowerPoint presentation), then you’ll need to become the hard-nosed editor who scrutinizes the original source; who looks at the sample size, respondents, questions asked, etc.; and who determines whether the research results legitimately support the conclusions.

What this new world of content integrity means to companies is more complex: assume that the “research-based” content that you produce is a reflection of your brand’s integrity. For the Marketing Department, this involves educating the corner office regarding the rigor, time and costs involved in market studies, surveys, research necessary to yield content worthy of customer-facing applications. For the corner office, this involves calculating whether the intended marketplace outcome is worth the necessary investment, and avoiding shortcuts.

Without the 4th Estate as the content gatekeeper, there is now far greater opportunity for companies to benefit from content marketing. And by not adopting the market research integrity standards that journalists long upheld, there are far more ways for companies to damage their brand through content marketing.

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3 Ways Social Media Will Fail Marketers

All communication channels have limitations

1. Social media will not increase word of mouth influence.

Research by Keller Fay for Google shows that 94% of word of mouth conversations occur offline, and most often, those conversations are sparked by information found on the internet and television…and not on Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites. Based on those offline conversations, consumers most often rely on internet search for additional product / brand information, which is considered to be more credible (+25%) and more likely to lead to purchase (+ 17%), when compared to information found through social media sources.  Marketers are best served by focusing on improvement of their SEO capabilities.

2. Social media will not drive customer experience.

Social media does not improve or replace the customer service channels that have the most significant impact on brand impressions. Multi-channel customer experience research by RightNow / Loudhouse showed that consumers are open to using social media to post opinions, but when it comes to interaction, 50% of consumers want to use online self-service tools, phone (18%), or email (19%).  Marketers are best served ensuring traditional channels deliver a customer experience that validates the company’s brand promise.

3. Social media will not reduce the marketing burden.

Similar to all other communication channels, social media involves ongoing discipline and a commitment to continually learn and improve performance and results. Establishing a Facebook page, Twitter account or company blog represents an obligation to dedicate the financial resources, appropriate skills and senior level attention necessary to make social media a strategic marketing asset. Marketers are best served walking away from half-hearted or short-term commitments to social media.

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Managing Customer Expectations and Being Picked Last

Soccer Can Be More Exciting Than Lawn Bowling

This past weekend, I joined a group of pre-teen relatives and their neighborhood buddies in a friendly game of soccer – a sport that had not yet made its way to America when I was in school, and has never been of any interest to me. Guys in shorts + lots of running = Snore-fest.

Maybe the kids sensed my underlying disregard for their sport. Maybe it was my gray hair. Or my middle-age one-pack abs. Whatever the reason, when they chose up sides, I was picked dead last, and the team that got me acted as though they had just been handed a red card. Humiliated, I took up a defensive position…assigned by a 12 year-old soccer hot shot…to keep the ball from getting near our goalie.

For the next hour, as balls whizzed past my head, through my legs and into our net, ignoring the impolite remarks from my cranky teammates, I nursed my wounded ego and considered the impact of expectations on performance and perception.

Perhaps I was playing poorly only because my teammates expected me to stink. I’ve certainly been a victim of low expectations on the golf course, where fellow hackers accuse you of “sandbagging” if you start playing better than your handicap suggests…so you quickly revert to double bogey performance.

There are a host of related studies on this subject: Students who outperform peers in tests because their teacher convinces them that they are smarter than other kids.  Patients who experience better clinical outcomes because they believe in the effectiveness of the therapy or medication. Factory workers who are more productive because their co-workers are supportive and want them to succeed.

But here’s an interesting twist: attempting to manage customer expectations can backfire.

Exceeding customer expectations may be a key to customer satisfaction, but a Journal of Marketing Research study suggests that seeking to define their expectations in advance can cause consumers to focus on the negative aspects of the purchase or experience, and to view the experience more negatively than customers whose expectations were not solicited.

The lesson here for marketers looking to measure and improve performance: Don’t ask customers to define their expectations before you deliver
the experience. Following the customer experience, ask them if, how and why it met their expectations.

The lesson for middle-aged, aspiring weekend soccer stars: Avoid the humiliation of being picked last. Buy a whistle, make yourself permanent
referee, and call ridiculous fouls on all those pimply neighborhood kids.

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