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The Budget-Cutting Blues

June 16, 2009  

"[T]he degree of uncertainty in business and consumer markets has soared," says John Quelch in a post at Harvard Business Online. "Yet, to conserve cash, most firms are reducing spending on the market research that would help manage that uncertainty." He reports that spending has dropped for four straight quarters, and that many major players expect to cut their market-research budgets 10 to 20 percent.

It's an ironic situation, but Quelch has some ideas for achieving the best results when you face reduced spending:

Focus on your key products and core customers. "When times are good," he says, "there is budget available for increased research on secondary products or customers. Now, nice-to-knows that are not essential will have to wait."

Gain insight from experienced colleagues. If you work with managers or researchers who have lived through past recessions, use their knowledge and judgment to help shape your strategies.

Know where to make cuts, and where not to make cuts. Use research to determine where cuts can be made, especially if your company operates in an unsteady industry. "Adding a few questions to standard tracking studies is a low-cost way to shed light on changes in customer attitudes and purchase behavior," he says.

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