Ralph E. Grabowski - marketingVP - fact-gathering, analytical Marketing to steer the enterprise



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"The Board's Fiduciary Responsibility To Market Research"

The Board's 
Fiduciary Responsibility 
To Market Research

20 questions for the Board to guide the CEO and the corporation


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Well-placed questions

Well-placed questions can be an effective method for the board to guide the CEO and the corporation.  Market research is not a commodity that can be purchased by the ton.  Inquire not only about the quantity of marketing, but also about the relevance of the market research, the caliber of the market research staff, and the quality of their activities.

  1. When do you plan on doing market research?  (Before, during, or after product development; or never?)

  2. What is the cumulative engineering investment by project?  (Engineering + R&D + development)

  3. What is the cumulative marketing research investment by project?

  4. If your marketing research investment is less than your engineering investment, what actions will you take to bring the market research budget and investment for each project into parity with engineering investment?  Should you change priorities?  Will you shift more funds into market research?  Can you find money for market research?

  5. Who is going to do the market research?

  6. What are that person’s skill levels, experience, track record, and training in market research; especially in technology-based enterprises?

  7. Describe the segmentation of the market.  Include both those segments that you will serve, and those that you will (by plan) not serve.  What, exactly, is your market segment?  How will you size the specific opportunity for your company?

  8. What is the "food chain" of your market segment?  Include the steps before you as well as after you.  Incorporate all the steps from raw material to the ultimate consumer, whether or not you will be involved in all of them.  List the major players in each step.

  9. Who is the customer?  Hint: "the market" is not your customer.  Markets don’t buy products; customers do.

  10. How many customers are in the top five?  How many are in the top ten?

  11. What are the names, titles, addresses, and phone numbers of those you expect to be your first three customers?  When do you expect each of them to enter their first order with you?  What do you expect their purchases to be for each of the next few years?

  12. Paint a word picture (plus real pictures and drawings, if you can) of the way your customer does their business now.  Model your customer’s business.

  13. You are selling aspirin.  What is the headache?

  14. What benefits will your product or service deliver?

  15. How will your product affect your customer’s business?

  16. What payback will your product or service provide?  Be exact: translate every step of how your product or service will affect the way your customer will do their business into a dollar savings/(loss).  Sum up the savings/(loss) per year.  Calculate payback and ROI.

  17. Paint a word picture (plus diagrams, if you can) of the way your customer justifies and purchases similar products or services, and of the way you expect them to justify and purchase your product.  In other words, what is your customer’s buying model?

  18. How and when will your market research staff provide guidance to engineering by: growing a relationship with engineering; articulating product concepts; defining important product benefits (specifications) that customers will spend money to receive; identifying features that engineering need not address; developing an unfair, defensible, decisive competitive advantage?

  19. When and what do you plan on discussing with potential customers by personal visit (and phone, E-mail, and FAX) to iteratively validate: the product concept (marketing before engineering); rank and weight of customer needs (benefits that they value); customer willingness to spend money for the benefits that you believe that your product or service will deliver; customer payback; bottoms-up market size; your model of their business; your grasp of their buying model?

  20. Who (or what) is the competition?  Hint: You are not allowed to answer, "There is no competition."


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