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I'll bet that if you hear one more person in our industry talk about the pressure being applied on marketing researchers to do more with less, you will scream. These are clearly tough times in the industry, and it is hard to argue against the line of reasoning that it is essential to get full value from every research dollar spent. The question is how to accomplish this. Most of the industry's efforts in this direction up to now have been focused on getting vendors to charge lower prices, offer rebates, etc., with precious little energy spent on re-examining the way research is done.

A recent article in Pharma Market Research Report turned on a lightbulb for me. The article recounted an interview with Laurie Gelb, senior consultant, market strategy and research at Trellist, in which Gelb shares her heuristic research approach. It means that we should only study things we know are related to the marketing issue at hand. That's a far more efficient way of doing business, Gelb points out, than including questions in our interviews on every knowledge, attitude or practice that might relate to the decision-making process under study. Rather, she suggests determining what factors decision-makers really take into consideration. We can then begin to write questionnaires that, because they are restricted to pertinent info, can be briefer, to the point and more cost effective. When this approach is used, what's left on the cutting room floor are expensive data that, while nice to know, are not essential. We can no longer ask the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink list of questions that still constitute the onerous questionnaires used in many studies. Understanding the process under study constitutes an important step toward doing more with less, and likely improving the quality of info being collected and the decisions being made.

Richard Vanderveer is group CEO, GfK US Healthcare Companies

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