Improving Market Research in a Recession

Editor's Note: Harvard Business School professor John Quelch writes a blog on marketing issues, called Marketing Know: How, for Harvard Business Online. It is reprinted on HBS Working Knowledge.

Recession-challenged consumers are buying less, looking for deals, or switching to different brands, product categories, or stores. Some are even changing long-held attitudes toward consumption. To many folks, filling the home with more stuff or keeping up with the Joneses is no longer appealing.

As a result, the degree of uncertainty in business and consumer markets has soared. Yet, to conserve cash, most firms are reducing spending on the market research that would help manage that uncertainty. In the United States, spending on market research has dipped for four consecutive quarters, and chief marketing officers don't expect the situation to turn around soon. Most big consumer marketers are seeking to shave 10 to 20 percent off of research budgets.

In flush times, a rising tide of consumption can compensate for less than optimal branding, positioning, pricing, or segmentation. That is certainly not the case now. At the same time that marketers must pare down research expenditures, they face added pressure to secure high-quality data and insights.

I recommend that CMOs take the following seven steps to minimize .... 

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