In his professional life, Colin Powell has been a lot of things, but chief among them is disciplined. In fact, if anybody has ever been “in the zone,” it’s him. Literally. Powell believes that leaders have an “information zone” of 40%-70% to make decisions: If you make a decision with less than 40 percent of the information you need to know, your chances of being right aren’t very good. But if you wait for more than 70 percent of the information, your window of opportunity closes.

With today’s frenetic pace of product and marketing development and change, has the 40-70 rule (as it’s known) ever rung so true? The advantage you develop this morning might last six months before it’s ancient history. The time to capitalize on it? ASAP.

Let’s apply it to pre-marketing research program goals. Based on our Analytics and Automation Group’s experience, the majority of clients focus pre-program research in three key areas:

  • Product benefit evaluation
  • Competitive comparison
  • Message testing

Below is the perceived value of these popular programs:

PRODUCT BENEFIT EVALUATION: Do they really, really like you?

Clients want to know what their prospects and customers are looking for in the type of solution they provide. As timelines shrink, an increasingly popular tool is the use of benefit statement ideas to see how the market responds. Within days, you get solid results that can inform the direction of product features or new-product development.

These programs are usually necessary because the hands-on research done ahead of time is often qualitative, which carries the risk of too-small sample size. That’s where quantitative research adds value.


Sometimes used as a brand awareness study, many of these programs help clients better understand their brand perception among prospects and customers. When you add unaided category-leadership questions into the mix, you can also get a look at how you rank against competitors in any number of attributes.

MESSAGE TESTING: Know the trend before you spend!

Probably the biggest use of pre-program research, everything from asset-topic interest to sales-pitch approach can be designed and tested in 30 days with highly reliable results. The concept is smart because if you’re about to unleash tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch your next great campaign, a little testing is excellent insurance. But be sure your testing is designed to appear as a legitimate email, and not a questionnaire.


As Powell implies, you don’t need 100 percent assurance in most of these cases; you need confidence based on something other than opinion.

As always, if you’d like to know more about Red House and our Analytics and Automation Group, feel free to reach out.

Next month we’ll talk about how to build research programs you can trust, and close the gap between results and reality.

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Dan Hansen

Dan Hansen

Senior Partner

Dan Hansen is a Senior Partner with Red House and a 30-year veteran of the marketing industry. In addition to holding a master’s degree in advertising from Syracuse University, he works in a marketing consulting capacity with Red House clients such as McKesson, Elsevier, Equifax, and AT&T.