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The Dangers of Relying On A Single Market Research Question

Posted by Josh Mendelsohn on Wed, Sep 22, 2010

single question“Do you know what the secret of life is? One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean s**t.” – Curly (played by Jack Palance), in the 1991 classic City Slickers

Over the last few years there has been a lot of debate over the use of a single question in market research to make business decisions, but this is not actually a post about NPS.  (For the record, I believe in a beefed up version of NPS measurement as a key loyalty indicator.)

This post is about how looking at a single data point can lead to incorrect decisions (Sorry Curly).  Case in point, in our most recent consumer pulse report about consumer opinions of health reform we asked 1500 Americans who they thought should be responsible for providing the most information about healthcare reform, and only 14% cited pharmaceutical companies (the government at 74% and health insurance companies at 61% were the runaway leaders.)  If pharma company executives were only looking at this data point, they might think that they were not deemed responsible by consumers and had a limited role to play in driving clarity around the issues.    

But when asked what groups should be most responsible for lowering healthcare costs, 54% of respondents cited pharmaceutical companies.  That means that consumers expect these companies to take action and operate in a way that helps consumers, regardless of the fact that they are not high on the list for providing information.  Those two points could lead to the exploration of a very different set of actions and strategies than looking at either in a vacuum.

The point is that while brevity is important in questionnaire design, it is market researchers’ job to not let it get in the way of providing business leaders with a full enough picture to make smart decisions.

Posted by Josh Mendelsohn. Josh is our VP of Marketing and loves live music, tv, great food, market research, New Orleans, marketing, his family, Boston and sports. You can follow him on Twitter @mendelj2.

Topics: methodology, NPS, Consumer Pulse, research design