Why Internal Clients Ignore Market Research Results


You’ve just spent weeks, maybe months, conducting some primary market research for your internal colleagues. Your happily deliver the end results. And instead of accolades and applause you get…deafening silence.

Anyone who manages market research projects has had this experience. It is painfully common.

But why does it happen? If we understand why it happens, perhaps we can do a better job of prevention. So in reflecting on my own experience, and from discussing this phenomenon with many clients, I find there are five common root causes of audience apathy:

  1. Negative past experience. It happens. For example, I have one client who got terribly burned in a past project in which the agency did not keep him informed of deviations from quota requirements. The project was perceived as a huge waste of time because of this, and the overall perception of market research by his colleagues was understandably damaged. Lots of things can go wrong in market research, and if not properly managed, can leave you with a group of hard-core research cynics.
  2. Perceived credibility of research partners. Does your audience have unanswered questions about your chosen research agency’s qualifications? Or do they have criteria for choosing an agency that should be weighed heavily in the selection process? For example, will your audience only be open to research results from a partner that has proven experience doing data collection in China? If so, by all means, find one!
  3. Unclear, or questionable, respondent qualifications. Are your colleagues skeptical about respondent authenticity? Distrustful of the screening process? This is a common, legitimate concern, especially in B2B research. A little information about sample sources and screening processes can go a long way.
  4. Resistance to bad news. Delivering bad news is, alas, sometimes part of a researcher’s job. So is preparing our audience for it.
  5. Proximity to data. I am stealing this phrase from a conversation I had recently with Jon Last, president of Sports and Leisure Research Group. We were discussing this phenomenon, and when he used the word “proximity,” it really captured the essence that I was having trouble articulating. The issue? Sometimes if the people who need to use the research are too far removed from the process, they simply don’t believe it. This is why, in some cases, clients can be better off doing market research in-house—or otherwise getting colleagues directly involved in the process.

So, which of the above issues might arise with your audience? In many cases, a little forethought and preparation of preemptive strikes can go a long way towards overcoming audience apathy. In contrast, avoiding the root causes only leads to heartache.

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  1. Greg Y (@piplzchoice)
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