This article is part of a series by Katie Harris, principal at Zebra Connections (if you missed the other parts, start here).  

The value of market research – whether we’re talking about qualitative or quantitative research – is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.

That’s because market research rarely, if ever, works alone in shaping strategy. It’s just one of many tools in a marketer’s tool bag.

In addition to this, market research is only ever:

  • As good as the research brief and the questions it asks
  • As good as the analysis and the debrief
  • As useful as its end users make it; it’s what they do with the output that can determine success or otherwise

Given the variables listed above (so called because they vary), it’s pretty much impossible to put a figure on its value per se.


Let’s look at it in another way.

If a particular product or service or piece of communication is relevant, it’s far more likely to end up in the shopping basket (so to speak). So the absolutely fundamental, most basic question for marketers should be:

“How can we make our products/services/communications more relevant to our customers/potential customers?”

And there are two ways marketers can go about answering this question:

  1. They can ask their customers/potential customers
  2. They can guess

Ask them

If marketers ask their customers/potential customers (and listen to them), they’ll be in an excellent position to create relevant products, services, communications etc.

The value of qualitative research here is obvious; it’s a very good way of asking, and listening, to your customers/potential customers to find out what’s relevant to them.

By being relevant, you’re optimising the chance of collecting the sale. Therein lies the return on your investment.

Guess work

If marketers decide not to ask and, in effect, guess what the market wants, they run the risk of getting it wrong.

Consider the time, resources and money wasted when bad guesswork delivers a dud. Go one step further; cost it out. And add the opportunity cost.

When you have that figure, my work here is done. Because that figure gives you a very good estimate of the ROI for good qualitative research.

Nothing to sneeze at, is it?