{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Market Research Capabilities

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss market research capabilities. What kinds of resources should an organization allocate towards market research? How often should you be doing market research? What are the different kinds of market research? These questions and many more answered – tune in to find out!


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{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Market Research Capabilities

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Christopher Penn 0:17

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, let’s talk about market research.

And when the best time is to invest in market research and how much you invest, because market research, at least in the context, we’re using it here is all about getting information about your market, hence the research to make better decisions.

So Katie, a welcome back.

And B.

When is the best time to be doing market research? And what kinds of market research should we be thinking about doing?

Katie Robbert 0:46

Yeah, well, thank you, I had a lovely little bit of time off, which is always helpful for me, to get my head clear, so that I can think more deeply about these kinds of questions.

And so market research, I love market research, I love the psychology behind why people do what they do, why they make certain decisions.

And so I think, when people think of market research, they probably think of these big, you know, projects that involve, you know, lots of researchers and analysis.

And, you know, those are really, really great and helpful.

And those are, you know, things that like McKinsey and Bain and those kinds of consulting agencies do.

I love those studies, but they’re really expensive, especially if you want to conduct one on your own.

And so the question being, what is the time to investment market research, I would say save those, for when you are thinking of like a new product launch or pivoting your company, you know, in a different direction, that kind of thing.

Otherwise, I would say it’s always a good time for market research.

And market research doesn’t need to be this expensive, labor intensive activity.

Market research can be as simple as a one question survey.

once a quarter, which is something that we do, it can be as simple as adding a short, you know, questionnaire at the end of an email or at the end of a form.

And it’s something that you’re constantly collecting data on to understand, do people like the thing? Do they not like the thing? Will they try it again? Would they come back? Why did they pick this particular thing? So I would say there’s, you should always be collecting some kind of data from your prospects, your customers, your audience on what they like, what they don’t like.

It’s the way in which you do it that makes it scalable.

Christopher Penn 2:40


So it sounds like you could we could divide market research into a few different types of categories.

Obviously, there’s, I guess, what we call passive market research and active market research passive being things like collecting search data, for example, where you’re not commissioning, additional retrieval of data we’re take working with the data that we already have access to.

And then active would be that, that new stuff like focus groups, one on ones, you know, secret shopper, surveys, polls, and things like that.

In terms of the passive side, obviously, search data is is fairly good.

And relatively quantitative.

Social media has good qualitative data.

It’s not very good quantitative data, because people generally, if you think about like a Net Promoter Score, we have like, promoters and detractors and there’s a big band in the middle of math, right? People don’t talk on social media about men, right.

And that’s the largest part of your audience.

So social media is only really good for the promoters of the detractors, the detractors tend to be the loudest.

So talk more about how do we think about a which of these pools do we tackle? In what order and and what the purpose is? What the what we’re trying to get at?

Katie Robbert 3:58

Well, so I, you know, it’s funny, I would add, you know, surveys that are running all the time are forms as passive, because you are not actively asking people the question, it’s something that’s just kind of running in the background.

You know, you may disagree, Chris, but I see that as more of a passive effort because the question is pretty static, and you’re asking it all the time, but you yourself have sort of automated, the research component of it.

More of an active would be going to your Slack community, like ours, for example, analytics marketers, and asking specific questions that you want to know the answers to, at that given time.

And so this is something we do with our community all the time, trust for marketers, it’s a free community and people can ask questions to gain insight from other marketers on what they’re thinking.

And so, you know, when I think about it’s funny that you put Do you know SEO search data, social media data into that market research bucket? Because I think, again, I could be wrong.

I think marketers don’t traditionally think of that as market research data, even though it is because it’s behavioral data.

Search data is demonstrating some kind of, you know, I have a question, I have an intent, I want to go somewhere, I want to know something.

And then social media behavior, so very different than search, you know, you may still be looking for information about something, but a different kind of information, I want to watch that funny video of, you know, the two cats doing the thing.

You know, it’s a very different kind of behavior.

And the behavior is gonna vary based on which platform you’re on.

And so I think when we think about market research, that’s a huge factor is where are you looking? Where are you finding this information? Because what, what I personally do when I’m scrolling through Tik Tok is I’m looking for cute dog videos.

Versus when I’m scrolling through Twitter, I’m looking to make connections and learn more about what other people are doing professionally.

Versus when I’m scrolling through analytics marketers, I’m looking to understand pain points.

And so those are three distinct use cases of various platforms.

Christopher Penn 6:34

One of the reasons I think marketers don’t think of things like search and social media data and such as market research data is because in part, it’s because of non response bias, right? Where the number of people who don’t search for something that audience may be very different, maybe not representative.

And so you would need to assess that.

So in terms of your market research priorities, you might use your passive market research to create better questions for the active market research to see okay, we know as we saw from last week’s newsletter, we know that pumpkin spice squish mallows is the thing based on social media conversations.

Okay, people love them, like people love these things.

But that data, you should not mistake as being representative of the population as a whole.

What you would want to do then is ask the population as a whole or this at least the segment of audience you care about.

What is your intent to purchase? Pumpkin Spice squish Mallow in the next 90 days? Right would be the story.

Katie Robbert 7:46

starter for me.


Christopher Penn 7:49

Well, I saw some research from from Pew Research about social media network usage.

For social networks for 13 to 17 year olds, and I saw the results, I was interested in it, but I thought it was lacking some things.

So that was a jumping off point for me to commission, our own survey about certain specific social networks that were just not covered in pew researchers and to a much broader audience.

We’ll be actually putting that up on the Trust Insights website in next few weeks, the results of that.

But that was a case where I felt like there was a selection bias in what social networks, the original survey had, had included in this study, which ones they had excluded.

And I thought that I wanted answers that were not included in this that’d be another example of a market research where you’re jumping off of somebody else’s research and saying I want to I want to turn my attention towards something else that I think is relevant that you I think you missed.

Katie Robbert 8:49

I I’ve told this story before, but always when we talk about market research, it always makes me think of I used to work with the stakeholder.

And for better or for worse, he had all the decision making power over my product line.

And we used to behind his back sometimes he was faced call him the end of one because he felt like he knew best what everybody wanted.

And he didn’t.

The product line wasn’t successful.

We couldn’t sell a gosh darn thing.

Because what he had in his mind what he wanted, wasn’t representative of what the actual audience who he did not represent, actually wanted because he was not them.

He was not a he was not going through their pain points their day to day their struggle.

He may have he may have at one point in his career, but where we were at that place in time, he was not there.

And so that was that’s always something that sticks with me as a great example of what not to do, which is why I personally really enjoy asking, you know, our customers, our audience, our communities, what do you want? What would help you the most? Because I’ve seen firsthand what happens when you don’t do that.

And so, you know, when I think about, you know, this research, Chris, that you’re quoting from Pew, where they missed a whole bunch of different social platforms, that’s a big deal.

You know, I haven’t read the particular research, but you know, just making some, you know, broad assumptions.

It’s probably your standard, what people think of as social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok Snapchat, like, that’s great.

But that’s not representative of where people are spending their time.

And I think that that’s one of the biggest market research questions is where are people spending their time? And I know, Chris, you do a lot of digging into this.

And more and more people are trying to spend their time in places that research companies can’t find them.

Because they’re not going online to be studied.

They’re going online, to have conversations to do you know, whatever their hobbies are, they’re not going online so that people like us can find them and go, Oh, so this is behavior a this is behavior B.

People humans are getting smarter and smarter about how to be online and not be found.

Christopher Penn 11:31

Exactly right.



And that brings up a lot of questions about market research capabilities, right, one of your market research capabilities.

I was actually having this conversation last week with them.

Bruxelles, we were talking about her book, conversations connect, I said, yeah, the the processes that you did for your initial studies of manually copying and coding conversations, dust those capabilities off, because even though it sucks, and even though it is a lot of manual labor, because of the nature of the way conversation is changing.

You can’t get that data any other way from from private social networks, like discord or signal or telegram.

Those conversations are happening by behind closed doors.

And if you’re lucky enough to get into those communities, you got to do it by hand, in order to be able to know what questions to ask.

But if you can do that, then you have substantially greater market research capabilities than your competitors may even know about, like your competitors may not even know where the conversations was happening.

In last week’s blog post about the pumpkin spice stuff, one of the things that I discovered was that they remember we had talked a few podcast episodes about why was this this conversation about pumpkin spice Squish, and I was missing from public social data, we looked in Talkwalker.

And it’s like 800 conversations, total for 13 months.

All the conversations happening privately, I joined a squish Mallow Discord server with 5000 people on it, buying selling trading was like, it was like standing on the stock market floor of the New York Stock Exchange people yelling, I have this, I had this, you know, this $25 $50 for this.

And the chat is scrolling by like a stock ticker almost.

And I’m like, this is where the conversation is happening.

This is this is it.

If you were selling these things, this is the place you would have to hang out if you want sell more than like five of them.

And that’s a market research capability to know where the market even is, in order to research it.

I think one of the challenges that market research in general has to tackle is Do we know how to reach people, like you were saying in the context in the in the contextually appropriate place to either observe them, which is almost like cultural anthropology.

And then to be able to turn that into quantitative data that we can use to make decisions with.

Katie Robbert 13:58

And I think, you know, as you know, companies, you know, as we’re recording this, it’s middle of August, you know, people are starting to think about end of year planning and this is when a lot of companies start making decisions about, you know, is it a good time to invest in market research, should we be doing a big market research project now, ahead of, you know, New Year new you, we’re revamping ourselves and you know, whatnots that is a huge blind spot for a lot of market researchers.

You know, and I don’t know the ins and outs of how a company like McKinsey functions.

I don’t know what their capabilities are, but I do know, having done market research myself.

If you’re not thinking, for lack of a better term outside of the box of where to reach people, then you’re already failing or you’re already not getting the best results out of your market research.

So a lot of traditional market research includes you know, picking up the phone calling people asking them their opinion getting a representative sample.

The challenge there is you are relying on people being honest with you.

And you know, as we know, from what we were just talking about with social media, people in general are trying harder and harder to just be more private, not share everything about themselves, or, you know, give this person one answer, give this person a different answer.

So your ability to get a representative audience of what you think your audience is comprised of, is going to be even more challenging as people are just not wanting to give you information about themselves.

And that all starts with you, the market researcher, the company, the team, the product, knowing exactly who your audience is.

And so I’m sort of, I feel like we’ve caught ourselves in a catch 22 You can’t know who your audience is, until you go out and do the research.

But you can’t do the research until you know who your audience is supposed to be.

And it’s you know, you’re relying on people giving you, you know, a lot of detailed information, which quite honestly, just isn’t, it isn’t a welcome question anymore.

Christopher Penn 16:17

No, it’s true.

It’s not a welcome question.

But I think first steps on unraveling that catch 22 is addressing the audience you already have, like, literally unless you literally just opened the doors, your business yesterday, you have some audience, right, you have at least attracted some people’s attention, you go into your Google Analytics, if the as long as the user count is above zero, you have some kind of audience.

And the the sector in which you solve problems, likely has audience, right, you search for a specific hashtag on Instagram, or Twitter or Tiktok.

for market research, right, and you’ll see people whose bios and stuff are in market research.

So you can start anywhere.

But you can easily start is with those qualitative questions, right? Go look at the hashtag for the problem you’re trying to solve on a service like Twitter, and look at the bios, the people who are, we’re in that space as well actually, one of the services we offer to our clients is we’ll take a look at, you know, your who follows you already on Twitter and kind of distill down the collection of bios, that’s a good starting point, then figure out what questions you would want to ask in a survey like, hey, weirdly, two thirds of the I’m making this up two thirds, the people who follow Trust Insights are in real estate.

And then we look at our products and services.

And we offer no services, real estate, how we made a a critical error here.

And that that would be the first question to go to our analytics from marketers community or our email list.

How many of you are in real estate? And if the answer is zero, then we know that we’ve got we know our Twitter data is is suspect.

But if we see it’s roughly comparable, then like, Oh, guess we better come up with some real estate specific offerings.

And so that’s how I would think about starting as market research is, look at the data you have access to, and use it to start coming up with questions.

Katie Robbert 18:11

Well, so I feel like, you know, back to the original question of what is a good time to invest in market research? I think, Chris, what we’re both saying is always all the time, all the time.

Because human behavior is constantly changing people’s likes, dislikes, where they’re spending their time, it’s constantly evolving.

And if you aren’t doing some kind of research, asking questions to find out, hey, where do you spend your time online, you can’t reach people where they are, they don’t want to come to you, you have to go to them.

And so it’s always a good time to invest in market research, you don’t have to make it a big production, you don’t have to spend millions upon millions of dollars.

Now, if you do, you know, please let me know, I’m happy to help you spend that money.

But you don’t.

But I think that that’s, you know, sort of the, you know, secret is you don’t have to spend a crap ton of money to get answers to questions.

You know, you can start small, you can iterate, you can do a B tests, you can ask your community, it doesn’t have to be a formal research plan.

If you’re in marketing, you know, because chances, you know, and this is sort of, again, I’m abroad.

So the chances of the questions that you’re asking being life or death are pretty low.

They’re not zero, but they’re pretty low.

And so having, you know, the rigor of you know, clinical research, for example, doesn’t necessarily apply.

Now, your questions shouldn’t should be valid, they shouldn’t be leading, especially if you want to publish on them.

But that’s a whole different topic.

If you just want to know, hey, if I offered a service where I fixed up your Google Analytics so that you could use it correctly, would anybody buy it? That’s a great question to start with, because then you’ll find out very quickly Hey, a lot of people are having this pain point.

Even if you flipped it around a little bit and said, hey, you know, is anybody having trouble setting up their Google Analytics and understanding what’s in there? You may find out.

No, nobody’s having trouble with that.

Okay, great.

That’s probably not a service I need to offer right now.

Let me move on to something else that I know I have capabilities for.

Christopher Penn 20:22


The other thing I think is worth contemplating when it comes to market research is the different markets you have access to.

I really like Sequoia capital’s market breakdowns for startups, which is something that you use to evaluate whether a startup is viable or not.

But you can use it for market research, which is there’s your total addressable market of everybody who could possibly use your product or service.

There’s your service addressable market where these the people that could use your product, specifically not the overall category, but just your specifically whatever your features and benefits are.

And then there’s a service obtainable market, which is the market that you can access with your current levels of resources and things and obviously, they use it to say, Okay, how do you we tend to serve obtainable market to reach the service successful market, is that worth investing in? Now, we think about market research, your service obtainable market is the people that you have access to right now, that’s your email list, that’s your Twitter following, that’s your, you know, Tiktok following that is, the people in your Google Analytics, the costs to reach that market is relatively small, and the information you’re probably gonna get from, it’s gonna be pretty good, because you’ve already got some kind of relationship, then you expand out to your service addressable market.

This is everybody that, you know, you might want to use Google ads, or Google Surveys or commission a panel or something like that, but it’s still going to be relatively, it’s gonna be called medium cost to reach this market.

And then your total addressable market, that’s where the money gets big, right.

That’s where you’re starting to do really, really hefty surveys Accenture or McKinsey style service, where you’ve got a lot of money, you need a lot of money to reach a lot of people and get statistically valid representative examples.

But in terms of how to get started with market research, shrink back down to its service obtainable market and say, How can we get answers out of the audits we have now knowing that there’s a bias, we know there’s a bias, the people who follow Trust Insights, for example, have a bias towards using data for marketing, right? They’re not the folks who hopefully don’t have hippo problems.

But that would cost us as we do with analytics for marketers, and our newsletter, it doesn’t cost us a ton of money to reach those people and get insights from them.

Katie Robbert 22:35

No, and I think that that’s exactly it.

And so when we think about, you know, investing in market research, start with what you already have, start with who you already know, you know, so Chris, you had mentioned, you know, maybe you are just kicking off a brand new business.

Hopefully, you would have already done a little bit of your own due diligence and put this into your business plan.

So that on day one, you have some kind of addressable market, because you know that this is a problem that needs to be solved.

Christopher Penn 23:14

Exactly like when we launched Trust Insights we identified, in fact, we’ve gone through these exercises when we were initially pitching the company to folks know what our obtainable market was based on the size of the newsletters and audiences we had accrued to that point in our careers.

And so we didn’t start from zero on day one, the company in fact, by the time we bought the lunch, we already had a couple of science clients.

That was part of we done that market research in advance, like, Who can we reach today? In order to grow stuff, so as we continue to evolve and figure out who we want to be as a company when we grow up? That’s part of our market research capabilities using market research capabilities for ourselves to say, what do you think of this or a question I think is enormously valuable.

Is what do you think we do? I asking people, your customers what do you think we do it on the market perspective? Or Tom Webster his favorite question is if Trust Insights went away tomorrow What if anything, would you miss right? And the answer is nothing then your brand does need some help, right? If your Target Corporation or Walmart or any of these big corporations, and you ask customer if the store just closed tomorrow, what would you miss? If anything? If the answer is nothing, I’ll just go across the street and like yeah, you’ve got to you’ve got a problem.

Katie Robbert 24:38

I would hope people would say it would be our witty banter.

Christopher Penn 24:45

And this is what was missing from last week’s broadcast.

Just me no witty banter.

Katie Robbert 24:52

No and so, you know, if you’re a part of our analytics for marketers community, stay tuned because I’ll definitely be asking some of these questions.

And in our community, you can join for free trust marketers, and one of the things that we started doing a few months back that has been really successful for engagement and getting more people to chime in, but also, as a market research tool for us for Trust Insights is asking one question of the day.

And so understanding where people’s heads are at what they’re working on, because even if you’re not asking questions specifically about your business, so if you if my question of the day doesn’t always relate back to and here’s what Trust Insights can do, you know, for you to sell to you.

Understanding where people’s heads are at what they’re working on pain points that exist outside of your company’s capabilities, is also really good rich data, because it helps you as the company understand where you fit into their world, not the other way around.

And I think that with market research, that’s always needs to be the end goal is, where do you fit into someone else’s life? Where do you fit into their priorities? It’s not, you know, them coming to you saying, Okay, I’m gonna rearrange my life so that you can fit in it’s you fitting into their stuff.

Christopher Penn 26:20


Our friend Mitch Joel has a great saying that this is not who you know, it’s who knows you, that determines your your capabilities.

And that’s absolutely true with if we have a reputation for finding answers or change management, if when you ask people who does change management, and we’re not in the list anywhere, then we don’t actually do that in the in the minds of our audience.

So ask your audience, you know, who does these things and that’s one of the benefits of using market research capabilities outside your company, is if you use a third party, they can ask the question like just unaided recall, who sells soft drinks, right, who sells batteries, etc, and get you answers that you may not want to hear? But the answer will be, you know, may, it may or may not include your company, but that’s one of the most powerful tools in market research is unaided recall, name, a brand of coffee chain, right? Probably a bunch of companies come to mind, but there’s probably one in particular, whether you like them or not, you know exactly who they are, what color their logo is, etc.

So that’s, that’s the market research capabilities that I think, you know, to your point, Katie, there is something that people should be investing in all the time.

And it doesn’t have to be a big investment, but has to be a consistent investment and is something that is regular and frequent.

Katie Robbert 27:49

I wholeheartedly agree.

So too long, don’t read, start small.

Start with who you know, start with a single question.

Start with a single answer that you want doesn’t have to be a big, elaborate thing.

And if you want to go big and elaborate, that’s fine, but don’t lose sight of why you’re asking the questions in the first place.

Christopher Penn 28:10


And as Katie mentioned, if you’d like to chat with other folks about this, join our free slack group analytics for marketers go to trust for marketers, where you and over 2500 other marketers are asking and answering each other’s questions every day and wherever it is that you are watching or listening to this.

If you would prefer to get a different channel, chances are we probably have it go to trust AI podcast, you can find all your options.

Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll talk to you soon

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