Some people treat market research the same way many approach going to the dentist – they know they should do it, in theory, but ultimately tend to put it off.

There are a lot of reasons research gets put off as it takes money, time and effort, things most of us like to conserve when possible. It also has the potential to push people and organizations out of their comfort zones. Here in the Bunker, we understand that market research occasionally gets deferred because people are afraid of what they might learn, which would force them to re-evaluate their operations. That’s not a comfortable situation, even for those who already know their operations need to be changed.

We often talk to clients who say they know they need to do market research, but they want to wait. Sometimes the wait is due to budgetary reasons or seasonal issues that are beyond their control. There are instances where it makes sense to wait. For example, if a school district decided in late spring to do a community survey, they would be well-served to wait until September to begin, rather than try to survey people during the summer when many are on vacation and less engaged about school-related issues. Often though, they want to wait until some change in the organization happens — a new product is launched, a division is reorganized, or something along those lines. In our opinion, that type of approach is an example of “Ready, fire, AIM!

The period prior to a major change or new initiative is the optimal time to do research. The most obvious reason is that it gives an organization a chance to actually research issues surrounding the change that might increase its chances of success or even help decide if it should even be made in the first place. Another important consideration is benchmarking and tracking. If something major is going to be launched or changed, it’s worthwhile to do some market research to measure things prior to the change. For example, if a new marketing campaign is going to begin, brand equity and awareness should be measured prior to the launch so that its success can be tracked with further research after the fact.

Decision-makers who are on the fence about conducting market research sooner instead of later ultimately need to consider the costs of delay and ask the following basic questions:

  • Is it better to operate with more information about your market or less?
  • Is it more costly to undo the damage from a failed initiative or to avoid undertaking it in the first place?
  • If you could learn some information that would potentially help you increase revenues and/or efficiency, would you rather know it now or six months from now?

The answer, more often than not (just like that person with a cavity who is thinking about calling the dentist), is that it’s better to act sooner rather than later.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm in Syracuse, NY.