This post is all about reasons not to do research. Not that I want to put you off; far from it I want to convince you that the common reasons I hear are very easily dealt with.

Let’s start with an obvious one:

Research is really expensive.

Yes it certainly is. I’ve been involved with a number of qual and quant projects that have very easily run into 3-figure sums. But can I honestly tell you the insight generated was any better than what might have been achieved for about 10-times less? No.

Research is expensive because it’s been made almost the exclusive tool of corporations and big business. These are companies who feel justified in spending large amounts of money and have kept big (and many small) research agencies in fine health over the last however many years.

You certainly won’t find many research agencies convincing their clients to spend less than their stated budget because they don’t need to.

But believe me, research doesn’t have to be expensive. Modern tech and the commoditisation of online samples means much has been achieved with far, far less investment. Even better is the do-it-yourself approach to research – just make sure what you’re doing is going to give you some good output.

Next one,

We talk to our customers all the time and we know they’re happy.

I have heard this a lot, particularly from smaller companies which is more understandable. But consider these points:

  • Are you talking to all of your customers, or just those who want to talk to you?
  • They are telling you they’re happy and you think this is totally honest? Would an independent party not glean more honest responses that you would find far more useful to your business?
  • Do you not want to at least try to improve what you offer?

I work with a small but brilliant professional services company and they use an independent voice (aka me) to carry out their client satisfaction work exactly because of the points above. It’s also something they use to show clients they take feedback really seriously – it’s part of their client service programme.

Consumers don’t know what they want so there’s no point asking them.

Bang! This is the big one. The ‘Henry Ford’ of reasons not to do research. His [dubious] quote being

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.

This is not the first time I have blogged about Henry Ford and research. This is all rather abstract of course because Ford pre-dated modern market research, so he never had the opportunity to use it.

However, the point is this… if someone had mentioned “I want a faster horse” in a focus group back in the early 1900s then, rather than be used literally to mean giving everyone a thoroughbred, Ford and his team could use this fantastic insight as a springboard to generate a raft of ideas, concepts and prototypes to offer the solution.

Who knows, they might have come up with an even better Model T, like one which didn’t break your arm when you tried to crank it.

Even if I did have the money to spend on research, I would be better to spend it on more marketing.

Without knowing how your creative, messaging and media might impact on consumers, aren’t you potentially just throwing good money after bad? Do a little bit of research and your campaign effectiveness might improve exponentially.

I don’t need research, I go on gut instinct.

You need a good gut for this. My gut tells me to regularly eat Penguin biscuits and never pass a golden arches without making a small purchase. I don’t really trust my gut.

I guess it comes down to your relationship with risk and the amount you stand to lose by a bad gut-led decision. Aren’t you in a better position to invest in ensuring your gut is telling you the right thing to do? I know though that for many entrepreneurs, this is difficult to swallow (groan…).

Research never tells me anything I don’t know already.

Similar to above – this does happen and that’s a fact. When I started out in research, early in the year 2000, I was told the old adage “if it looks surprising, it’s probably wrong”. How I kept going after this I’m not sure. I think it’s because research can surprise, enlighten and inspire much of the time.

Sometimes though, yes it will confirm things you already know. But isn’t it more reassuring to confirm what you know and then make good decision than risk making the wrong choice?

For me, research is all about giving you the confidence you need to make good, right, brilliant decisions.

I prefer to learn from failures to succeed.

There’s a lot to be said from learning from failure. A recent read, Black Box Thinking, is a great read on this subject. I would say ‘failing fast’ would be the approach to take. Carrying out quick tests and making incremental improvements before launching a product to market is clearly the way to fail – small failures to avoid a monumental one when it’s too late.

There may well be other reasons to avoid research that I’ve not covered here – please feel free to let me know. Otherwise, let’s have a chat about how research can help your organisation to achieve.


Photo by Nicholas Kampouris on Unsplash


Why on earth would you do research?

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