How to get the Best ROI from Your Marketing Research Investment – Daramola, MD, CMRG
Femi Daramola, Managing Director, CMRG Nigeria joined CMRG Limited as a Deputy Research Manager in 2012 and rose through the ranks to become the Managing Director in less than a decade. His experience, continuous training and worldview serve him in good stead for the company’s next phase of growth. Femi fielded questions on – making the best out of marketing research investments, the new-normal era as it affects marketing research and challenges of the marketing research industry, among other knotty industry issues. Excerpts
Is marketing research boring as some would want us to believe, what is your view about this assumption and what has been your staying power?
I do not subscribe to this school of thought. The truth of the matter is that market research is not boring. It is social research that deals with the study of human behavior. Market research unveils the unique needs, behaviours, habits, and attitudes of consumers/customers and, this gives marketers, brand managers, monitoring and evaluation teams, governments, and other policymakers opportunities to make strategic decisions. For your products and services to be well-accepted, you must know the choices and preferences of your target audience. Market research provides you with essential information about your competitors and existing products. Results from the market research offer you insights into what it would take to succeed in the market. Hence, organizations base their business decisions such as sales and marketing strategy on good market research.
In summary, market research allows us to: Understand human behavior – purchase behavior, price sensitivity of consumers, switch patterns, why they get attracted to brand A and not B etc. How to reach your target audience—understanding their demographics and psychographics – personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, emotions, and lifestyles. If we have so many activities as these, then market research is not boring.
Then would you rather say, marketing research is expensive, especially when other costs of production are already going beyond the roof?
The cost of a specific market research project is determined by the research method being used. Face-to-face interviews are more expensive than phone interviews. The sample size involved also determines how expensive the research is going to be – the larger the sample size, the better the level of precision of the results and the lower the error margin. Larger firms with extensive coverage areas will typically require a larger sample.
Taking these variations into account, we can estimate typical market research costs for both ad-hoc research (i.e., one-off studies) and research that is done frequently – weekly, monthly, or quarterly. It is a negative misconception to consider marketing research as being expensive. It is fueled by notions that the money is better spent elsewhere – advertising, CSR, or marketing. For instance, those who have never embarked on market research in the past; I mean those who have never checked the pulse of their customers or consumers, there is this feeling of ambiguity around the value research can offer them. Market research should be viewed as an investment that creates both short-term and long-term benefits for the business. Market research has several core benefits for your business. The investment impacts on the business in terms of the knowledge, authority, and confidence in the decisions you make to ensure they mirror what your customers want.
This is the age of the new normal, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, how has this affected Marketing Research, how do you as a business leader circumvent or your company surviving the headwinds occasioned by the pandemic?
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic brings unprecedented challenges. When the first case of Coronavirus emerged in China in late 2019, no one envisaged it would snowball into an enormous and horrible phenomenon with vast global impact. It is no longer hidden that the art of doing business is now disrupted, and the consequence is that entrepreneurs and corporate organisations all over the world are still counting the losses occasioned by the pandemic.
As a key player/practitioner in the Marketing, Social and Opinion Research industry in Nigeria, our operations are not spared from this new trend. Those that respond by rising to the occasion sought innovative ways of dealing with the situation while those who react seem to be struggling with adapting to the changes.
On our part as CMRG, we took some strategic measures as we sail through these challenges. These include rightsizing (to an optimum/manageable size) as a means of reducing overheads and to also forestall redundancy. Our data collection model transformed quickly from face-to-face to virtual engagements. Most engagements became virtual such include meetings with clients both in Nigeria and abroad; we use WhatsApp group/Online community, Online IDIs and Focus group discussions (FGDs) via Zoom and similar platforms.
At the end of lockdown, some of the developments have become the new normal. Now, where it is absolutely necessary for us to go to the field for physical engagements especially for household surveys, we do not engage without observing the COVID 19 precautionary measures, including social distancing between interviewer and respondent, as well as usage of facemasks as a protective measure. For in-hall surveys, all eligible participants must wash their hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before admittance into the halls. Disinfectants are also provided for constant surface cleaning. Participants’ temperatures are also checked using thermometers at the entrance of the hall.
Some believe research findings /documents most times are consigned to the shelf; how do you ensure “products” from your stable do not suffer similar faith?
First, you want to get your reports read. After all, if no one reads them, you might as well not write them, and you probably shouldn’t invest money in doing research! So, keep your reader in mind as you develop the report and think creatively about how to present the information in a way that makes it easy for the reader to absorb.
To ensure your marketing research reports do not end up on the shelf gathering dust, you need to do the following: provide answers to the objectives of the research. Include an executive summary, or dashboard. No matter how wonderful your report, there will always be those managers who just don’t have the time to read the entire report. At a minimum, write an executive summary that includes only the information managers will need to make the business decision at the heart of the project. Tell an interesting story. No one likes to read about data points. Telling a story makes your research results accessible and leads the reader to implementation. Be brief. Research has shown that we humans are reading less and less. So, keep it short, simple and use lots of bullet points. Too much text on a page can be intimidating and discourage readership. Be organized. In the executive summary, present the research results that answer the objectives, starting with the most important objective.
The pioneering MD was on the saddle for over 20 years, what are the fresh changes, you are bringing to bear on the business?
Customer satisfaction of our clients is very key – when great customer service is offered, repeat purchase of our services is guaranteed. In fact, anecdotal evidence has shown that 78% of people have walked away from a sale or service because of poor customer service. In light of this, exceeding clients’ expectations is very critical to us. Of course, we are consciously working on the expansion of CMRG’s client base, while retaining existing ones is also very important to us. We are undertaking a total but gradual overhaul of CMRG’s Field Department – fresh team of supervisors/ interviewers that will deliver the desirable top-notch operations.
Integrity underscores the backbone of our operations be it data collection, data processing and analysis. We strongly believe in the principle that – “No survey rises above the level of fieldwork on which it is based.”
That is the main reason we need to gather accurate data, to generate precise results. If your field team lacks data integrity, it becomes difficult to turnout reliable results.
What do you consider key challenges of marketing Research in Nigeria and how can these be surmounted?
One of the biggest challenges is the incidence of very exciting briefs going into the hands of non-research agencies. Owing to the perceived “reputation” of management consultants, the companies coming into the country are comfortable giving research briefs to them and not research agencies. The solution to this is for Nigeria Marketing Research Association (NiMRA) the umbrella association, to be vibrant, coordinated, and visible in the country. Their regulatory activities will most likely halt these irregularities. I particularly desire that NiMRA becomes a chartered body. Technology is another challenge. The industry needs to acquire and train employees in modern technology, as well as address the associated security and reliability concerns. Researchers still need time and training to learn to use technologies for maximum effectiveness. Exposure of our young executives to relevant training both at home and abroad is something I’m also passionate about. When they undergo training, their skills and knowledge will improve, and their confidence on the job is enhanced.