Product Marketing Rule #7: Business Research is About Decisions, Not Questions

42 Rules of Product Marketing Facebook

Product Marketing Rule #7 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by Al Scharer, Filigree Consulting

Define the decisions that you need to make, then define the research tools you will use to make the decisions.

From a product marketing perspective, research is about decisions.

Research is a systematic approach to gathering data that supports your decision making.  There are several steps to create an efficient research methodology that will help you create on-target messaging.

First: define the decisions that you need to make and then define the research tools you will use to make the decisions.  Next, determine the way you are going to gain consensus on the information you develop, the information you need to populate the tools, and finally the data you will need to derive information. This is the path to defining actionable research.

Diagrammatically, research projects are defined as follows:

Decisions > Tools > Agreement > Information > Data

The research project/decision making is executed in the
reverse order:

Data >Information  > Agreement > Tools > Decisions

Let’s use a simple example to explain. Suppose you need to make a decision about how to spend your marketing communications budget across a set of segments.

PMM Decision: I have a fixed sum of money and five market segments, how should I allocate the money to maximize revenue? For example, what campaigns should be emphasized? Which segment gets the most focus and funding in the launch?

Tools: A portfolio model linked to resource allocation. The information you need to populate the model includes: market attractiveness (e.g. opportunity, growth rate, competitive intensity, etc.) and organizational strength (solution fit to segment needs, effectiveness of channels, current level of success, etc.) for each of the segments.

Agreement: This is where the chain most frequently breaks down. In over 20 years of business research, we have seen many more arguments about what the facts are as opposed to useful dialog about what to do about the facts.  If you can’t agree about the facts (e.g. that new competitor is a real threat), you are unlikely to formulate and execute a strategy that protects your business from the threat.  Get your team together and agree on the facts that are necessary to decisions, then decide as a team.

This step in the process is also important as it provides a forum for integrating other research and knowledge held by the team. We often remind our clients that the research we are working on is simply another set of
information that needs to be shaped by their experiences and wisdom.

Information: Simply put, information is data in context. It’s a matter of distilling, refining, enhancing and cross-referencing raw data to make it clearer and easier to internalize. Using our budget example, we might compare the growth rate of segments in the market to adjacent segments. The fact that a segment is growing at 12% is interesting data. That a segment is growing at 12%, while the total market is growing at 5%, is valuable information.

Data: We collect data about segment growth, size, etc. This is generally done in the traditional research path of secondary, followed by qualitative (focus groups, interviews, etc.) and then quantitative surveys.

The execution path is simple, you reverse the definition path.  Get the data, refine it into information, meet to agree on the facts, populate the models, and make decisions.  Voilà:  actionable research!

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