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5 Ways To Waste Your Firm’s Marketing Budget On Research

Alexandra’s hit it on the head with this one. Precisely what we’ve been telling our clients for years.

Top 5 Ways to Waste Your Professional Services Firm’s Money on Research

By Alexandra Marigodova

More and more firms are discovering the extraordinary power of strategic marketing research. In fact, Hinge’s own research shows the firms that conduct systematic research on their current and potential clients grow from 3 to 10 times faster and are up to 2X more profitable.


Faster growth and more profits – that’s the power of research. But in order to work, it needs to be done right!  This blog post lists some of the most common, budget-murdering mistakes that are easy to avoid.

  1. Use Research Designed for Consumer Products

The truth is, marketing research started in the consumer sector in the 1920s. Client research built on consumer product research is truly the “mullet” of professional services research. It’s out of style, it doesn’t quite fit, and it makes us cringe here at Hinge.

Think about it. Trying to figure out how to sell accounting services using methods designed to market baby formula just isn’t the best strategy. Purchasing a product at the supermarket involves less risk and different decision makers. This is one sure way to waste your firm’s hard-earned money.

Instead: Use research designed for professional services. One thing for sure, professional services buyers don’t purchase on impulse. To design the right research, you first need to “pilot test.” Ask open-ended questions, then turn them into categories. First explore, and only then narrow down.

  1. Ask Little Questions

By nature, people are greedy. Many try to pack very granular, nitpicky questions to get the most bang for the buck. Our mind tells us to add, when we should be subtracting. Asking little questions is one of the easiest ways to introduce bias and get meaningless results.

Instead: Focusing on the big questions will yield the most results. Think of it as removing layers rather than adding more to get to the real truth – what’s most important for your firm. Think more along the lines of how your clients would describe the real value that your firm delivers, rather than how they feel about a specific service.

  1. Use Quantitative OR Qualitative Questions

More often than not, we come across research studies that ask “what” without asking “why.” This is especially common for times when quantitative data tells us what we want to hear. Imagine you got this finding: “80% of our clients are very loyal to the firm.” And… full stop. We don’t need to know more, right? Wrong. You just missed an opportunity to find out what makes you so unique that the clients want to stay with you.

Instead: Use BOTH quantitative and qualitative questions. “What” should always be followed by “why.” Understand the reasons behind the numbers and listen to what your respondents are trying to tell you.

  1. Poison the Pot with Judgment Words and Phrases

What’s wrong with the question below?

“On a scale of 0 to 10, how important are the awesome services that firm X provides to you?”

I spoiled the question on purpose, so it’s an extreme example. As you can tell, it explicitly tells the respondent that the services are, in fact, awesome. We can’t both ask for an opinion and give our own. Freedom of expression to all of our respondents!

In all seriousness, surveys often use descriptive adjectives and add unnecessary leading information. Dictate the results of your research and lose money.

Instead: Use neutral language and phrases to let the respondent make the call. The questions themselves can impact the objectivity with which people respond to them. Be mindful of word choices and put extreme care into the wording of your questions.

  1. Talk to the Wrong People

Another way to pour money down the drain is to ask a whole bunch of wrong people. Even with the right set of questions, the wrong set of people will not give you meaningful results.

There are really two predominant ways to mess up your sample – trying to ask each and every person or only talking to clients you have the best relationships with.

Instead: Use smaller, highly targeted sample groups. Ask yourself, “What does the client I want to do business with look like?” and “Who are my most desired prospects?” Interview them.  Ask your internals, too. It’s important to see how well your employees know their clients.

The growing investment into research in professional services also exponentially increases the amount of blunders. But don’t worry! Now you know how to avoid the common mistakes. No need to risk your money. It’s time to get actionable results from research to grow your firm and become more profitable. For a more comprehensive overview of best practices, download our free Professional Services Guide to Research.

About David Poulos

Speaker, Consultant and Author David Poulos is known as the Marketing Doctor because of his proven ability to accurately diagnose and prescribe the most effective solutions for successful business growth with absolute surgical precision.

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