BDM's 5Qs

Welcome to 5 Questions With, a “behind the business” series from Bella Domain Media. This interview style post is published every few months and I’m very excited to bring you my third interview! This one is with entrepreneur and market research maven, Jennifer (Jen) Berkley Jackson.

I’ve been a fan of Jen’s since we connected soon after she invited me to speak at a Women in Consulting lunch down in Silicon Valley last year to talk about leveraging LinkedIn as a solo entrepreneur and consultant. Jen and I share a passion for helping others make quality connections that matter.

So, let’s jump right in…

Here are Jen’s helpful and informative answers to my 5 fave questions. Thanks for participating, Jen!

  1. If there were “one thing” that most people don’t get about doing market research, what would that one thing be? 

Many people think that doing market research is as easy as launching a survey on their favorite free or very inexpensive do-it-yourself survey tool. Today’s web-based surveys have grown in popularity over the past 10 years as a way to easily get input from anyone, anytime practically for free! The problem is that doing solid market research that can help you make sound business decisions requires much more than a web survey tool.

  1. What does someone need to understand in order to do market research well?

Good market research requires careful planning before gathering input. Some of the key things that need to be well though-out beforehand include:

  • What are our key questions vs. things that would be nice to know?
  • Who do we want to get input from?
  • How many people do we need to get input from?
  • Where can we find the people we want to get input from?
  • What is the best tool for gathering the input?
  • What is the best way to design our questions to ensure that we get reliable data?
  • How can we encourage people to participate in our research?

If you don’t spend enough time on each of these questions, there is a danger that you will end up with data that is misleading and leads you to the wrong conclusions. Sometimes the stakes are higher than others, but no one likes to make decisions based on bad data!

  1. Of the information you just shared, what is most important? 

Actually, the most important thing I help clients with is determining the right tool for gathering the input they are looking for. Often, people will come to me and say they want to do a survey, but I always step back and ask questions to make sure that a survey is the right tool.

Surveys are just one research tool, but there are many others to consider. There are interviews, focus groups, observation, and more. Choosing what tool to use should be based on not only what you want to know, but who you are interested in hearing from, what other data you already have, and in the case of product decisions, where you are in the product development process.

  1. Was there ever a moment when you had an “aha!” around your own business and suddenly it all made sense?

Yes! Early in my market research career, I did whatever kind of research a client would ask for and never questioned their judgment. But there was one project that came along where the client sent me an RFP asking me to bid on doing a survey to help them get input from both buyers and users of a new product they were thinking of launching. Based on how little they knew about the market and all of my experience doing a variety of market research projects up to that point, I realized that interviews would be a much better tool to use than a survey.

I shared my thoughts with the client and was nervous that I wouldn’t get the project (which was a big juicy one!). But I DID get the project and through the interviews, was able to get them some very helpful insights that resulted in launching a very successful product.

I learned then that as a consultant, part of the value I provide is the benefit of my experience as well as my objectivity which help make me a valuable partner when deciding how to approach any given research project based on the answers to those all-important planning questions.

  1. When you picture how all this information fits together, what image comes to mind?

Concept image of the six most common questions and answers on a signpost.

It reminds me of being on a hike in an unfamiliar area where the trails aren’t clearly marked and I have to decide which one to take, knowing that the wrong one will take me much longer and potentially be a harder hike than I had in mind. But the RIGHT trail will get me where I wanted to go within the timeframe I wanted to get there, with water to spare…it would be a very successful outing!



Jen Berkley Jackson - The Insight AdvantageJen Berkley Jackson is the founder of The Insight Advantage and is passionate about creating connections between companies and their customers. She has a thorough understanding of the impact of customer insight on essential organizational processes: new product development and marketing, sales, operations, product/technical support, and more. Jen’s a long-time board member for Women in Consulting (WIC), is an active member of Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA), teaches The Power of Market Research at UCSC Extension Silicon Valley, socializes via cooking/reading/playing bridge/wine tasting/golfing, cheers on local Bay Area sports teams, and spends time with her ever-growing family. You can get more info by following her on Twitter or checking out her awesome new website at

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5 Questions With Market Research Maven: Jen Berkley Jackson
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