When Should You Conduct Research?
April 27, 2015
Some research providers recommend an annual study. While this is good for those of us in the research business, it seems reminiscent of the Arm & Hammer campaign to put a box of their baking soda in your refrigerator, throw the box out after 30 days and buy another one. Buying a dozen boxes of baking soda every year is good for Arm & Hammer, but we're not sure if it really does anything for your refrigerator.
You should conduct research when your ratings aren't behaving in the manner you would have predicted. It's like driving on an unfamiliar road at night. You may not pay much attention to your GPSâ€¦until you begin to have that sinking feeling that you're off course. It's at that moment that you begin consulting the GPS to align your understanding of where you think you're heading with reality. In PPM or diary-measured radio, the consumers' reality is the only one that matters. Getting internal guidance aligned with consumers' understanding has rescued more than one station before it drove off a cliff.
“When” is one factor to be considered; “how” is another factor.Â Research in the radio business has relied on the landline telephone for many years.Â And that made sense when it was the primary way that ratings companies made initial contact with their samples.Â We prefer to conduct research online. Landline telephones have become too rare and the people who answer them even rarer.Â We simply don’t trust the landline sample to be representative of the broader population.Â
The smartphone has replaced the landline as the ubiquitous device in the 21st Century.Â We make sure our interviews can be taken comfortably on a respondent’s desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone whenever they have time to complete the survey within a specified window of time.Â It should be comfortable and convenient for them â€“ and not conflicting with their lives when they’d rather be doing something else.Â Moreover, by doing our interviewing online we can compensate respondents for their participation, just like PPM and diary respondents.Â
We use properly-screened consumers from invitation-only databases and never use station-supplied winners' lists or other shortcuts that would make it less costly to gather the sample, but would compromise the integrity of the results. It’s tempting to believe that biases can be washed away by using giant opt-in samples.Â But, if you interviewed tens of thousands attending an NFL game you’d get much different information about the percentage of people who love pro football than with a smaller, random sample of your market.Â
Among the many great things about conducting research in the interactive space is that we can ask more questions in less time (since no interviewer needs to read the questions or the possible answers to the respondent) and that we can get very rich answers to open-ended questions (since no interviewer needs to type out what the respondent says). The end result is that a typical full-size perceptual study asks about two dozen more questions than a typical telephone study. You have time to ask all the typical questionsand also have time to explore new ideas; to scratch itches; to test assumptions; to dive deeper.
- You might want to investigate what benefits consumers are really deriving from your station and how segments of similarly-minded consumers use the station.
- How do consumers feel about your packaging and promos?Â Do they add to the entertainment? Are they extra commercials? Do they cause tune-out?
- You might want to see if their attitudes match those that you use in your promos. Do they really hate the boss? Do they really dislike their job? Are they looking for an escape from their life?Â
- What drives your listeners in their lives?Â What do they want?Â What are their dreams?Â It’s important to get beyond just asking them about us.Â
- Do listener attitudes match your assumptions in terms of how you daypart music on the station?Â Many stations keep music tempo and energy under control during the morning and early part of the workday and begin increasing tempo and energy for the ride home.Â Does that match up to what listeners want or is it just what we’ve always done?Â
What questions keep you up at night?