In a post at Harvard Business Online, Scott Anthony recalls a client who read a magazine article suggesting a focus on quantitative research for businesses with limited resources. He wanted to know if this would, indeed, produce the best data. Anthony's response: "While of course quantitative surveys can generate important learning, it's dangerous to assume there is any single 'best' market research technique."

He illustrates what quantitative research can miss with a story from A.G. Lafley, chairman of Procter & Gamble.

While working on for the Tide brand in the 1980s, Lafley visited customers as they did laundry in their basements. And though Tide customers routinely gave an "excellent" rating to the detergent's cardboard packaging, he began to notice not a single woman used her hands to open the box; instead, they relied on improvised fingernail-saving tools like screwdrivers.

"And you know what?" Lafley told Anthony. "We thought our package was excellent because they were telling us our package was excellent."

That insight is something Tide would not have discovered without adding qualitative techniques to the mix.

"Companies too frequently default to quantitative research because they think there is safety in numbers," says Anthony. "It's a lot easier to justify a strategy by saying, 'The data suggests' than by saying, 'My intuition suggests.' But sometimes numbers provide false confidence and obscure real opportunity."

The Po!nt: Don't think of research techniques in terms of better or best. "A good market researcher is like a good investigative reporter," says Anthony. "They use a variety of tools to pick up a problem and look at it from different perspectives. And they recognize that different tools are appropriate for different contexts."

Source: Harvard Business Online. Click here for the full article.

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