Two factors are important if you want to get clear answers out of a clinical trial. The first is proper enrollment – getting the right numbers of the right patients to participate. The second is asking the right questions in the right way – that is, determining what effects to look for, and how to measure those effects.

The same is true when doing market research. It doesn’t matter what subject the research is covering: new messages for your company, or how you are positioned vis-à-vis your competition, or even which web site design communicates the most clearly. The same two factors drive success: proper enrollment and asking the right questions in the right way.

In our work in creating and propelling life science brands to success over the last two decades, we’ve seen mistakes in both areas: proper enrollment and asking the right questions in the right way.

Firms often want to conduct some form of market research by asking their board, or their spouses, or their friends. This is an error in proper enrollment, because none of these people is really a member of the target audience. It may be easier to ask questions of these people because they are available, but easy answers from the wrong audience are still suspect, and are often completely wrong.

The other error has to do with asking questions in ways that bias the resulting answers. The most important thing you can do to avoid this type of error is to run a small research sample first. Then look at the answers you are getting and see if they line up with your expectations. Go back and adjust the questions if you need to; you’ll avoid lots of trouble later.


Running a small sample first? That sounds a lot like a Phase I trial, doesn’t it? You just want to make sure that no one dies on the way to getting the answers you need.