Market Research

“Cheap, fast or good. Pick any two.”


It’s a bit of dogma often claimed by market researchers, though it is circulated in other fields as well (including software development).

Why is it so popular? Primarily because it does pass the gut test: market research projects that are fast and good are unlikely to be cheap. Ones that are cheap and fast are unlikely to be good, and so on.

However, the dogma has become outdated. Thanks to new technologies and methodologies, market research projects are being completed faster and less expensively than they once were—and are still meeting quality needs. Or to employ yet another over-used aphorism, we have learned to do more, with less.

Of course, we still make trade-off’s in designing and executing market research studies. Just different ones.

Today, the balancing act is no longer about cheap, fast or good. Today it is about projectable, innovative or simple.

We often want research that is projectable, such that it accurately describes a target market or population of interest.

We also often want research that is simple, such that its risks can be managed and it can be delivered according to intended budget and schedule parameters.

And these days, we are also often seeking innovation. Not for the sake of innovation itself, but for the sake of overcoming known issues such as the limitations of self-reported behavior and the need for more accurate emotional measures.

Yet these are trade-offs.  Cool new methods and tools that help us gain rich projectable insights into emotions aren’t simple.  Market research projects that are simple and innovative are rarely projectable. And based on my experience, those that are simple and projectable are rarely innovative.

What do you think: Is the current trade-off between projectable, innovative or simple? And if so, can you think of a project you have done that was, in fact, all three? Is it possible?


[Get the best market research articles of 2012 in our convenient compendium. Topics include Facebook for research, Google consumer surveys, mobile research and more.]



Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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