Getting someone else to talk to ‘opinion formers’ using tick box telephone surveys doesn’t help your business.
I’ve blogged on this in the past, but half a dozen recent phone calls from research firms such as Millward Brown made me recall how pointless these surveys are.
They usually start with an oily-sounding character (it’s never a nice old lady!) asking for a 20-minute interview to help a ‘leading brand’ benchmark themselves.
Upon questioning, this timeframe is usually extended to “25-40 minutes” and followed by the line that: “in return we offer £50 to a charity”.
Nine times out of ten the caller says they can’t tell you who the brand is. I have no idea why they say this.
If one agrees to this, a bored individual then telephones a day or so later and asks a series of soul-destroying questions for what is usually a B2C brand.
The usually want you, as an ‘opinion-former’ to rank the anonymous brand against their competitors, on a scale of one to five.
Or ask, on a scale of one to five, or A-E, which issues are important for the company to tackle. Very quickly, it becomes obvious who the company is, and the caller then admits who it is. I must have had that conversation a dozen times before I stopped giving the interviews.
Here’s why this kind of outsourced engagement/benchmaking is a really bad idea:
1) Calls that come from a research agency make me think the brand doesn’t care enough to engage me personally
2) They always sound bored, desperate and know nothing about the topic they ask about
3) Several times, I discovered the donations to charity were not actually made, and had to chase up the company to make it
4) The questions they ask never make any sense. In fact, one gets so bored so fast you just end up saying “what was D again?” or “oh, lets say it’s A” when you can’t really recall each of the options given. As soon as that happens you realise that no only is the exercise pointless, it actually can give the company the wrong impression.
5) The benchmarking with competitors bit is plainly ludicrous: “Would you say company XXXX is better than company XXXX on supply chain engagement” and “Would you say company XXX is A) Quite good, B) Very good, C) Excellent, or D) Less than good on environmental issues compared with companies X Y or Z?”
I’ll stop here. I’ve made my point, and I feel better.
If you pay for the above, I would suggest reconsidering.
By all means research your customers, employees and others. You should, and there are lots of great methodologies for doing this.
But if anyone tells you that opinion formers can be engaged in this way, and can offer meaningful insight as a result, think again.
‘Opinion formers’, whoever that describes, will want to be engaged in two way conversation, if any, with your company.
If you don’t have the resources to do one to one engagement, then just do good, one way communication with endorsements by credible partners, and track responses via the usual monitoring channels.
In this case, doing nothing is better than doing something badly.