Following up on my last blog post, “Cut Now, Lose Later,” here are additional suggestions from Harvard Business School professor John Quelch on producing quality market results during troubled times. (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6183.html, “Improving Market Research in a Recession” on HBS Working Knowledge 5/26/09 newsletter)
Leverage trusted external partners and expertise within the organization. Does your firm work with distributors or suppliers that also perform market research? Combining your data could lead to additional insights for all parties. In addition, Quelch says, “CMOs who trim costs by consolidating their budgets with an integrated research supplier should insist that the supplier aggressively explore synergies across its various component agencies as well as eliminate research redundancies.”
The expertise of fellow executives at your company should be used more than ever. “CMOs should tap the knowledge and intuitions of managers and researchers who've lived through previous recessions. In setting prices, for example, such insight can help calibrate the optimal level of price promotion offers. Experience also reveals proxies: in tough times, some marketers use research results from Sweden as a proxy for Scandinavia, rather than conducting the same research in all Scandinavian countries.”
Multinational firms should switch some research funds to Asia and Latin America where preferences tend to be more fluid and market research costs less. The payoff can therefore be greater than in the US and Europe.
But Quelch warms “Go online with a dash of skepticism.” An online panel may not be representative of all buyers. And he reminds us to devote some of the tighter budgets to new consumers and new consumer behavior. This will help determine if the recession-driven changes in purchase patterns endure when the economy picks up.
You have to work harder and smarter in a recession to survive and position yourself for the upside that is coming. Carefully thought out research projects can make you smarter about major marketing expenditures.