The Statistics of Marketing
I’ve always loved statistics. As a design major and artistic type, I moved away from mathematics in high school and college, only doing what was necessary for my degree, only to find a passion for statistics during my junior year which extended through business school. Early in my career, I worked as a business analyst, and I think that’s where my love for stats really expanded. Where I struggled with math was the theory. Why I loved stats was the application: it includes elements of math, of language arts, and of both psychology and sociology.
<rant>Here’s the thing: the more you dig into the data, the supposed quantifiable facts and figures captured through research and method, the more you see how subjective it all is, and how “qualitative analysis” in some ways just means skewed or biased data toward a pre-determined premise or, in many cases, the hopeful outcome of a generous benefactor, i.e. a company has funded the research and wants data that points to their product or service in a positive light.
That’s why I often brush aside these lists of supposed experts, with results pulled together by vendors looking to pitch their own products or services, adding their own name to a collection of well-known industry veterans. Success by association. What interests me is “how” questions are asked, helping me to perceive the true intent of the research. Are they trying to understand what is happening in the market, or is it all just a marketing scheme to create led generation material?
Since I’m on a bit of a rant, here’s something that bothers me: the 5-point scale has problems, and yet it’s the most common measurement we see. A “4” on a 5-point scale is much less impactful than an “8” on a 9-point scale. What do you expect to do with the data from a 5-point scale? Can you take any meaningful actions? Can you interpret the meaning behind an end user’s selection? I don’t think so. It goes back to the question of intent. If the purpose of your effort is to gain knowledge, understanding of what I happening with your customers, your partners, the industry at large, wouldn’t you ask your questions in a way that allows you capture meaningful, actionable data?
What are you trying to achieve with your data? Is it an honest collection of opinion to help inform and drive the decision-making process, or is it pure marketing?</rant>