Frequently Asked Questions
We're not a large company and haven't used Market Research much.  Doesn't it usually just reinforce the hunches you have going in?

Usually not.  Part of the value of Market Research is the methodologies used to acquire results that are representative of the audience you seek to understand.  Significant time is spent understanding the natural groupings among your audience and how to engage them without accidentally skewing their opinions or perceptions. Similarly, on the back end, tabulating the responses and constructing the report of findings has elements of art as well as science if it is to be useful in describing an audience's motivations and making suggestions about how to approach them with a new offering.

We have used Survey Monkey to post a survey on our website and get some feedback from the visitors.  Can't we just do more of that when we have questions about the market?

You could.  Additional dialog with your customers, prospects, and opinion-shapers is almost always useful.  But the helpfulness of such casual feedback is limited by the size of the decisions you plan to make based on them. The audience of current visitors to your website may be perfect for asking questions about additional services and information you are considering adding to your website, but may be barely useful if you are considering developing a new product or service.  The current visitors may have limited or no need for such a service.  More useful in that circumstance might be to conduct a quick research project to determine the size of the market that might be interested in such a product, what alternatives people are currently using to meet the need that it serves, and what it would take to interest them in trying your new product.

Isn't Social Media killing Market Research?  If you can get almost instant feedback, who needs to waste time and money on formal "research?"

Social Media is transforming Market Research, but there is no evidence that it is killing it.  Think of it as additional tools for understanding audience perceptions, understanding, beliefs, and actions.  Refining  an understanding of audience preferences for service delivery, enhancement, bundling related solutions all seem well suited for the "drive-by opinion-gathering" that characterizes a lot of social media. But social media are still evolving, as a category of online behavior and within their own individual environments.  Although tools are emerging that permit better understanding of group characteristics, behaviors, and topics under discussion, the etiquette of engaging them remains touchy and the privacy concerns still a "third rail."  There also seems to be a natural limit to the scope of such environments for a lot of the business risks that Marketing Research projects address because either the environment is limited to short messages (e.g. Twitter)or has a strong slant to it (e.g. LinkedIn), or is used more for personal sharing than business deliberations (e.g. FaceBook)

So, all Market Research is face-to-face?

No, and it hasn't been for a long time.  It's really "horses for courses," by which is meant selecting the form of interaction that is most likely to generate valid and useful responses.  Sometimes the interaction is over the telephone, sometimes it is a survey that pops up every nth time  a website is visited, sometimes it is an invitation to answer a set of questions when customers call in, sometimes it is an online discussion board specifically created for the research project. Because so much value is being created, purchased, and "consumed" online, a lot of Market Research focuses on the actions people take, and not just the things people say about their interests, curiosities, needs, understandings.