What market research can learn from baseball

FEBRUARY 13, 2012 – When a business is hoping to use market research to devise ways of better targeting consumers or achieving improvements in its internal operations, it’s key to have the people who can crunch the numbers on your team.

Billy Bean, the Oakland A’s general manager who famously used algorithms and analytics to assemble a winning team, recently explained at Covario’s InflectionPoint 2012 conference how his approach can be applied to search marketing, Search Engine Watch reports.

He advised that marketers hoping to apply the same strategy when dissecting results from online panels or a data set need to stick with the solid facts and not be swayed by a fear that their plan won’t work out. If the evidence shows that a campaign will succeed in the long term, don’t cut and run under pressure from higher-ups, the source recommends.

Having faith in the people who are analyzing that data and relying on the numbers they produce will also be a factor in your success.

“I didn’t invent anything, and I really suck at math,” Beane told the audience, as quoted by SEW. “But I hired really good people to have around me.”

Beane said it is important to clear out the “gut-feelings” and emotional responses when making a decision, as they get in the way of good judgment. It’s better to get the results you want and need than go with a strategy that is flashy or romantic.

“Every campaign doesn’t have to be a ‘win’ in the sense that the competition is annihilated,” the source concludes. “It does need a basis in sound metrics, with a projected outcome, and it needs to succeed in moving the company forward as a whole. Focus on the metrics that matter and on building a strategy based on experience, hard numbers, and devoid of emotion and gut reactions.”

This echoes Beane’s presentation, which also addressed dealing with the competition and staying the course, even when others in the industry adopt your ideas. He recounted how his team continues to operate with just one statistician, while the Yankees, flush with cash, have brought on 21 people to mine and investigate the data in order to forecast players’ performances.

Regardless of competitors’ success or failure with their own data, keep your focus on your own company’s operations and the results it produces.

In addition to data mining, scientists are now developing technology that could unlock a whole new chapter in behavioral analytics – neuroscience marketing. The Street reports that developments in neuroscience could mean researches will be enhancing their community panels, online surveys and other market research tools with electronic sensors and MRIs.

Barbara O’Connell – senior vice president in the Global Neuroscience Practice at brand and communications research firm Millward Brown – told the news outlet that there is some hype surrounding the science’s capabilities, and that marketers will not be able to trigger a “magic ‘buy’ button in the brain” or read their inner thoughts.

She explained that the neuroscience will prove more useful when survey participants are unable to describe a certain feeling or abstract idea. O’Connell noted that in these situations, market researchers could be able to burrow down to the foundation of the person’s “emotional or instinctual reaction.”

Armed with this kind of information, companies may be able to design campaigns and marketing messages that resonate with consumers on a more visceral level, driving a deeper connection between the customer and the brand and creating longer lasting success.