Market research is complex enough. And like Rumsfeld pointed out: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” The crucial fourth is the “unknown knowns,” which Lacan called, the “knowledge which doesn’t know itself.”

As researchers try to determine the knowns and unknowns, a lot can go wrong. But that also means we can be aware of the known unknowns and make room for them. Here are a few surefire ways to avoid making the most common mistakes in market research.

6 Expensive Mistakes in Market Research and How to Avoid Them 

One: Delivering as promised

Anything that doesn’t deliver ROI is redundant. It’s tempting to overspend on research that is both confirmatory or exploratory. But there are ways to freely test your intuition or hypotheses without having to invest resources in them. How is this accomplished? First, you realistically manage the expectations of stakeholders. Under-delivering after having overpromised isn’t going to win your trust in the future. Two, you communicate your deliverables across the organization through anecdotes or evidence, your plan of action. It’s a great way to keep your research journey in check with accountability. This also allows you to transform insights into decisions easily at a later stage.

Two: Use different research methodologies

Nobody puts all the eggs in one basket. Multi-method research helps vet your findings independently and diversify your research credibility. Use a mix of quantitative methods like surveys and qualitative methods as in focus groups. Qualitative research with quantitative insights gives you the lens to create more meaningful insights. If you want to double down on value and avoid a narrow view of things, use a hybrid method. 

Three: Make allowance for cognitive biases

Even the best of research experts are not immune to cognitive biases. They are all-pervasive, influencing participants, stakeholders, and research analysts. Some of the biggest known unknowns that we can avoid:

  1. Confirmation bias: It’s easy to prove what one already wants to prove. The confirmation bias seeks to confirm preconceived opinions.
  2. Knowledge bias: It’s like Stephen Hawking put it, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
  3. Negativity bias: paying too much attention to what might go wrong isn’t healthy to get things off the ground.
  4. Pro-innovation bias: Overstating the benefits and features of the product sounds a lot like pro-innovation bias. To avoid
  5. Post-purchase rationalization: Trying to keep the buyer from having second thoughts about the product, post-purchase rationalization tries to convince the mind about the value of the product.
  6. Recency bias: A recency bias is an all too common human trait. It focuses on the most recent events or information. The best way to avoid it is to zoom out and refer to any past research findings.
  7. Social desirability bias: Modern PR requires brands to be desirable. But a bias manifests itself when comments are more socially desirable than factual.
  8. Framing effect: A framing is cast every time a new story is told based on old evidence. This may be done for branding communication, but it might not always be honest.

If we pursued learning and research with the knowledge of unlearning them someday, biases would be easier to overcome. Physicist Richard Feynman once commented on the ever-changing landscape of science, “If you thought science was certain – well that is just an error on your part.”

Four: Researching the right audience 

Among the 7 deadly sins in MR, researching the wrong audience is perhaps the most embarrassing. A lot of things can cause this. Incorrect population segmentation, poor demographic targeting, and not understanding consumer behavior. This is further skewed by incorrect audience representation, dropouts, and non-responses. Plenty of factors are beyond the researcher’s control. But a few ways to influence better responses are:

  • Make sure the sample group is interested and has enough incentive to fill out surveys or complete tasks.
  • Simplify the research experience to reduce dropout rates.
  • Expand the incentive and design to include a larger number of participants.

Five: Offer better incentives

To maintain a level of quality, consistency, and integrity, nothing works as well as incentives do. There are two parts to incentive design: 

  1. The motivations of the research participants
  2. The level and type of compensation you offer

According to a study, people are best motivated with multiple offerings. Financial incentives, curiosity/topic of interest, having their opinion heard, improving the company, seeing search results, and previous experiences with services, in that order.

At the same time, integrating quantitative research into your research is key along with surveys. However convincing the statistic, it isn’t accurate if it is based on the opinion of a few people. Make sure you present both sides of the findings, even if they contradict each other. These conclusions may be useful in themselves.

Six: Make use of your business results

The C-Suite professionals need convincing that research results are valid. For research to be truly effective it needs to aid and assist the decision-making process. It also adds professional accountability and incentive to researchers to continue in their path for newer discoveries and questioning older ones. 

One way to ensure this is proper dissemination of research is key at conferences, publications, meetings, and events where stakeholders are directly involved.

There is no way around this. Research needs to be well-rounded, unbiased, accurate and implemented. Asking the right questions to the right people with incentives, and to enough people, using different methodologies, putting those findings to business use are all important. Not just for product development and UX, but also for distribution, advertising, marketing, building a brand, and ultimately selling more products and business advantages.