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More Show & Less Tell, Please?

When a political candidate releases a poll that shows the vast majority of his constituents support his positions, what do we often think?  “Yeah, right – either the research was conducted in such a way as to make sure the …

When a political candidate releases a poll that shows the vast majority of his constituents support his positions, what do we often think?  “Yeah, right – either the research was conducted in such a way as to make sure the results would come out that way, or it was reported selectively so that we’d only see the numbers that agreed with the candidate.”

Skepticism is just human nature – and that’s not a bad thing.  We’re skeptical when someone presents data that makes their case look good…particularly if it’s their own data rather than from an independent party.  Now, would we have the same skepticism if a well-regarded polling firm released a study that showed the candidate’s constituents agreeing with him?  Probably not, because there’s an added level of credibility there.

So why do so many research firms ignore the basic skepticism of human nature?  Simply put, if I see one more article or webinar claiming that one particular technique or methodology is superior to all others – from a company that just happens to specialize in that technique or methodology – violent illness is likely to follow.

“Telephone research is dead – take everything online!”  If that statement came from an independent researcher I respect (or who works for a company I respect), I might just listen to what she has to say.  But when it comes from an online research firm, the credibility is gone.

“Traditional focus groups are useless – the only way is online qualitative!”  If I hear that from the head of research at Samsung or Marriott, I’m willing to judge the argument on its merits.  If I hear that from an online qualitative consultant, I just roll my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong – I expect the purveyors of specific techniques to believe in those techniques.  I expect them to think those techniques are superior to what their competitors offer.  I’m fine with that.  What I don’t expect is to hear how anything other than their own technique is garbage and I’m an idiot if I use the competition.

Tell me why your approach is good.  Tell me why you feel it’s superior to other options I have.  But please stop trying to tell me that the other techniques are dead or antiquated.  Because guess what – in the right situations, there’s even still a place for mail surveys and mall intercepts.

So all you research firms that specialize in mobile MR, or social media sampling, or online panels, or traditional focus groups, or qualboards, or ethnography, or whatever, feel free to promote your methodology to me.  Show me how it will help solve my problems.  Tell me all the advantages it has.

But please stop authoring articles and producing white papers purporting to tell me all the reasons why your approach is the only one I should use and why all those other techniques are passé.  I’m just too skeptical to believe you hold The Truth in your hands – particularly when it’s in your own self interests to decide what The Truth really is.

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