Market research or trial?

I have found that some small businesses are reluctant to spend time and money on market research in favour of  ‘gut feel’ and a bit of ‘trial & error’. Is there anything wrong with this approach?

Being a strategist I love market research in all its forms and feel most comfortable basing decisions on sound evidence with just a sprinkling of assumptions. Saying that, I deal in the real world of small businesses and will frequently argue the case for taking a more pragmatic approach to gaining market insight. Why spend £x on  market research when you can spend the money on a marketing campaign that could bring in business as well as providing valuable insight? In my view there is nothing wrong in undertaking a marketing campaign when you aren’t in possession of all the facts just as long as you have thought through the risks involved.

It is important to go into such campaigns with a very clear set of objectives and to evaluate the response carefully and with an open mind. I recently undertook a promotional campaign for a client with the dual objectives of winning new business and testing a number of assumptions about customer behaviour. Worst case would have been that we tested our assumptions for a fraction of the cost of a market research project; in fact the campaign  paid for itself by bringing in new business as well as providing us with much-needed market research.

I certainly would not advocate this approach when the stakes are high but, by keeping the risks to a minimum, a trial campaign can make more sense that a full-blown research project.

Cartoon image courtesy of

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