Are You Asking the Right Questions

How often have you finished a marketing research engagement, and thought one of the following?

  • “Did we learn anything new”
  • “Did the respondents understand what we were asking”
  • “That was a good study, but it didn’t really answer the most critical questions”
  • “How reliable are the results”
  • “Can we make a good decision based on those findings”
  • “With hindsight, I wish we had asked a few different questions”

If you have felt this way, you are not alone.  To get the most value from your research efforts we must work closely with our clients to ask the right questions in the right way to uncover specific insights needed to make the best strategic decisions.

Often market researchers focus most on what NOT to do in questions.  DON’T ASK:

  1. Leading questions:  prompts respondents to answers they way you want
  2. Confusing/complex/vague questions:  provides incomplete, or worse inaccurate responses
  3. Questions “off-point”:  capturing information not relevant to the primary objective
  4. Too many questions:  leads to respondent fatigue and incomplete/inaccurate information

While these and other types of questions must be avoided, at The Farnsworth Group we like to focus equal attention on the type of question we DO want to ask.  DO ASK:

  1. Focused, strategic decision-making questions: stay on task with your primary objective.  capture feedback on purchase intent, specific drivers of relationships/ perceptions/ satisfaction/ loyalty, current behaviors as it relates to your main objective.
  2. Hypothesis testing questions:  identify your hypothesis and ask questions that prove or disprove this hypothesis.
  3. Past AND Hypothetical questions to determine future:  what has the respondent done in the past when confronted with a situation, what will they do in the future, what do you think will occur with markets/competitors/your business.
  4. Precise questions:  directly ask what you want to know and what you don’t know vs. “surrounding” the issue with questions.
  5. Probing questions:  direct open-ended questions along with precise questions that get at WHY.

Getting the most value from your marketing research studies requires many components; asking the right questions is clearly one of those components.  While there are standards that must be followed to achieve accurate and reliable information – push your team during question development to: stretch thinking, be creative, think differently, and ask what you must know to drive your business forward.