Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Customer insights are a critical component to the innovation success of any company. But, for those who don’t conduct research every day, the task can seem quite daunting. From topics ranging from the importance of market research to more involved inquiries about dealing with sensitive subjects, Applied Marketing Science (AMS) frequently fields a variety of questions from clients and potential clients. Here are just a few of them:

Why do I need market research?

Why do I need market research? Market research is used to understand your customers’ thoughts, opinions, and beliefs so you can develop products and services that best meet their needs. A well-designed research study provides new insights into your customers’ perspectives and helps you mitigate the risk of making a wrong decision.

Market research can help throughout your product and service life cycle:

  • During the “fuzzy front end” of innovation, market research can help you decide what to do next.
  • After a concept or prototype has been developed, it can tell you if you have landed on a great idea or if you need to go back to the drawing board.
  • Market research can also tell you what your organization is doing well, and why some customers choose your competitors over you.
  • Without market research, companies often repeat the same product management mistakes. With market research, most keep customers top-of-mind and ultimately will succeed in the marketplace.
When should I do market research?
Market research can be helpful at any point during the product life cycle, from introduction, to growth, to maturity, and even to decline. If you are not sure how to proceed, gaining a greater understanding of your customers is always a good initial step.

At Applied Marketing Science (AMS), we recommend all companies do market research at three key stages:

  • During the “fuzzy front end” of innovation, when you’re not exactly sure where to focus your efforts.
  • Once you’ve developed a potential solution, when you need to figure out whether you have a winning idea before investing a lot of time, effort, and money into the product or solution.
  • Once you’ve settled on a product, but you’re not sure how much to charge.
  • Of course, there are many other times when market research makes sense, too. Some examples include monitoring customer satisfaction and enhancing customer experience.

    Can you train me to do my own market research?
    We can absolutely train your team to conduct your own market research. At AMS, we provide both in-house and public training courses on Voice of the Customer, Interviewing, Ethnography, Quality Function Deployment (QFD), Journey Mapping, and more.

    Our hands-on course provides you with practical, step-by-step instructions into how you can implement our methods within your organization.

    We also offer Action Learning engagements, where we provide personalized, directed training throughout the whole market research process.

    Is it possible to conduct customer research during the Covid-19 pandemic?
    Yes. In fact, we’ve found that Covid-19 has made recruiting easier in some industries. People are spending more time at home, doing far less business travel, and often looking for ways to add excitement into their day (yes, a market research interview can be exciting!).

    We’re also adept at conducting telephone and video interviews, leading online focus groups, and observing people through mobile ethnography. And, of course, the vast majority of survey research has been conducted online for over a decade, so the entire field is used to online surveys.

    Are there different types of market research?
    Broadly speaking, there are two types of market research: primary research and secondary research.

    AMS specializes in primary market research. That means we develop a custom study for every research project. We craft interview and survey questions to answer your specific questions. We collect data from customers in your target market and we develop a custom and confidential report tailored to your organization. You can learn more about the different types of primary research that AMS offers by reading “Our Solutions.”

    When organizations use secondary research, they use data and reports that have been compiled and published by others for general use. Common secondary sources include data provided by government entities and trade associations.

    What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research?
    At AMS, we use both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

    The goal of qualitative research is to understand both “why” and “how” people think, feel, and act the way they do. We use qualitative data when our goal is to understand issues and experiences, explore nuance, and deeply understand the perspective of a few people. Qualitative methods are inherently open-ended, and they allow respondents to answer questions freely.

    In contrast, quantitative methods are used to generalize a larger population. Quantitative research is used when you want to look at how common a particular opinion is, measure the relationship between variables, and test hypotheses with significance testing.

    How do you find people in my target market?
    We start our engagements by creating a screener survey—a small list of questions that respondents must answer in a particular way to qualify for our study. The initial survey is the easy part. The hard part is finding those who qualify.

    In B2C categories, where the average consumer is in your target market, recruiting is relatively painless. However, in some B2B industries, particularly those focusing on industrial products or medical devices, it takes a lot of work to find just the right respondents.

    Luckily, AMS has years-long relationships with several third-party suppliers that specialize in recruiting. At times, we also do our own in-house recruiting. In the end, we find those hard-to-reach respondents that you are looking for.

    How do you decide what questions to ask in your research?
    This is really a collaborative effort. At AMS, we start by having detailed conversations with you and your stakeholders. We’ll want to understand answers to several key questions, including: Why did you reach out to us? What important questions do you need answered? How will you use what you learn from the research?

    After we ask you the important questions, we then use our expertise to create a discussion guide or survey that will provide you with the answers you need.

    Research questions can be broad or quite narrow. Some of our research tackles the “fuzzy front end” of innovation, when our clients have big, nebulous questions about who their customers are, what their unmet needs are, and where the market is heading. Other projects focus on specific (but no less important) questions, such as whether to modify a specific product feature or how much customers are willing to pay for a new service.

    Can’t I just do my own market research? Why do I need a market research consultant?
    Can’t I just do my own market research? Why do I need a market research consultant?
    You absolutely can do all of this in-house. In fact, many companies never work with outside research providers at all. However, there are several benefits to outsourcing your major research projects:

    1) Our methodology is rooted in academia, but adapted for industry. Our cofounder is a professor at MIT who has published many award-winning articles in top marketing science journals.

    2) We bring decades of experience across a wide variety of industries across B2B, B2C, and healthcare. Often, we learn something from one industry that will help make sense of what we’re hearing in others. Let us use our experience to help you.

    3) We can handle complexity. We have our own in-house technology for conducting virtual interviews, and programming surveys. At AMS, we have strong relationships with global partners who can help us recruit those hard-to-reach respondents.

    What about research on my current customers?
    You might be thinking: Do I really need a recruiting firm to help me find those in my target market? Can’t I just talk to my own customers?

    Well, yes. You can and should do research with your current customers. It is important to understand what those who regularly use your product or service like and dislike about their experience with your brand. However, if you’re only talking to your current customers, you’re missing out on valuable insights about what it would take to capture more market share. You might find that your product needs only slight tweaks, or your market messages need a different framing, to appeal to more customers.

    Can market research help me with competitive analysis?
    Yes, market research can help you with competitive analysis. In fact, almost every one of our engagements asks respondents to compare our clients’ companies to their competitors. We help you understand where you’re perceived better than the competition—and where you need to improve.
    What is Voice of the Customer research?
    VOC has come to mean just about anything related to customer research. Although we’re not opposed to researching customers in many different ways, the original term was developed by one of our company’s co-founders (John Hauser) and his graduate student (Abby Griffin) to mean something very specific. We continue that legacy today by focusing on voice of the customer as the study of customer needs.

    What makes a good voice?

  • A complete set of customer wants and needs
  • Expressed in the customer’s own words
  • Organized by the customer
  • Prioritized by the customer in terms of importance and current satisfaction
  • How much are my customers willing to pay for my product or service?
    It is not easy to measure customer willingness to pay. Customers are motivated to say they’d pay less than they really would (who doesn’t want a deal?). And, it can be hard to get them in a purchasing mindset, where they’re really thinking about what they’d pay, during a survey.

    Luckily, academic researchers have developed conjoint/discrete choice analysis to help you understand which features you should include in your product or service and how much to charge for it.

    AMS has several conjoint experts on staff, led by Patty Yanes, who has completed hundreds of conjoint engagements with the firm and is the resident conjoint analysis expert.

    When don’t I need market research?

    We firmly believe that market research is a critical component of any product or marketing strategy. However, it is possible to do too much market research or use research in the wrong way.  

    So, when don’t you need market research?  

    1. When there is not a lot of risk to getting it wrong. If you’re just making a minor product tweak or adding a new service that can easily be modified as you learn more about the market, skip market research. 
    2. If you have already done a lot of research, but you find yourself thinking that just one more study will help you decide. There is always a risk when you’re launching a new product or service. No one ever has a 100% take rate. Occasionally, we see clients who are paralyzed by the thought of making the wrong decision, so they use research as a crutch.  
    3. If your stakeholders won’t listen to the data anyway. Unfortunately, we run into this every now and again. If your leaders are intent on “listening to their gut” or just following what your top competitor is doing, save yourself the time, energy and cost of conducting a market research study.  
    How can a journey map help me?
    A journey map provides a structured, actionable understanding of what customers want, how, and when. It tells the story of how your target market experiences the purchase and usage cycle.

    Read our whitepaper: How Data-Drive Journey Maps Can Uncover Customer Loyalty here

    Why do I need a market research consultant?
    There are several benefits to outsourcing your major research projects:

    1) Your company will benefit from tapping into a wealth of knowledge. Our methodology is rooted in academia, but adapted for industry. Our cofounder is a professor at MIT who has published many award-winning articles in top marketing science journals.

    2) With us, there is no learning curve. We bring decades of experience in a wide variety of industries across B2B, B2C, and healthcare, which is an asset for your company. How? Often, we learn something from one industry that will help make sense of what we’re hearing in others. Let us use our experience to help you.

    3) Another advantage: We can handle complexity. We have our own in-house technology for conducting virtual interviews and programming surveys that quickly get the marketing research process started for you. At AMS, we also have strong relationships with global partners who can help us recruit those hard-to-reach respondents that you may not be able to find on your own.

    Can you help us analyze existing data?
    Yes. We’ve helped many clients analyze existing data. Our ACE Machine Learning offering is especially helpful for analyzing large amounts of textual content. For example, we’ve helped clients analyze call center notes and transcripts, online chat data, and open-ended survey data. We can even analyze product reviews, online discussion forums, and online communities.
    Do you offer virtual training?

    Yes. We offer both online and in-person training. We’ve also adapted our popular courses for an online audience. And, we’re still receiving the same high marks on participant satisfaction.

    How do I choose a research supplier?
    There are many research suppliers out there. How do you choose the best one for you? We recommend looking for a company that does the following:

  • Understands what your company or business is trying to accomplish. For example, during your initial meeting, high-quality suppliers will ask good questions, share their perspectives, and help you clarify your own thinking on your research questions.
  • Can clearly explain their research approach and rationale.
  • Provides clear, actionable insights and recommended next steps to help you make sense of all the data.
  • Provides thorough case studies and clients
  • Can meet your budget and timeline.
  • Acts as an ongoing partner.
  • My field is highly complex and technical. How can I be sure you’ll “get it”?
    One of our unique skills at AMS is our ability to talk with any type of customer, about any subject. We have experience in almost every category imaginable.

    When it comes to B2B research, AMS has covered several complex topic areas. For example, we have talked with:

  • Radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons about how they treat brain tumors.
  • Welders about how they choose and use their welding equipment
  • Energy managers about how they purchase energy for their factories and plants
  • You can see more of the industries we have worked with by reading our “Powerful Results.”

    My company deals with sensitive subjects. How can I be sure you’ll handle this appropriately?
    We have plenty of experience handling sensitive topics with care and compassion. Our interviewing experts are trained to put all respondents at ease (regardless of the topic), listen with empathy, use active listening, ask difficult questions, and continually gauging whether respondents are uncomfortable with the interview.

    We’ve talked with:

  • Mothers and their adolescent daughters about menstrual care
  • People who are obese about their weight loss journeys
  • People who are paraplegic about their bowel management processes
  • Those recently diagnosed with breast cancer or prostate cancer
  • How much does an engagement cost?
    Because we do custom market research, each project is tailored to your needs, and costs vary widely. Contact us to discuss your market research needs and pricing.
    What is ACE Machine Learning?
    ACE (Automated Content Evaluator) is AMS’s proprietary AI methodology developed in collaboration with researchers at MIT. It dramatically reduces the time and effort required to gather a comprehensive set of customer needs and insights in a category. Learn morehere.
    Do you work with international clients?
    Yes. We have clients around the world, and we have many on-the-ground recruiting partners in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
    Have you worked in my industry?
    The answer is likely, yes! We have worked in a wide variety of industries across multiple verticals. Read a few of our case studies or see who we help

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