Targeted Inquiry

Bad data is worse than no data.

“Bad data is worse than no data,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s Director of Industry Research and Analysis, at the end of Market Research 101, a seminar that capped off SHOT Show University. The presentation, co-hosted by Rob Southwick and Nancy Bacon of Southwick Associates, covered the basics of market research for retailers, manufacturers, and range operators.

The session began with an overview of the various industry data indicators—existing information that has been consolidated by NSSF for use by its members. But Bacon also covered common crafting pitfalls when it comes to conducting your own market research. Be sure to ask one question at a time, avoid leading words, and don’t use vague or relative terms. Most of all, said Bacon, “Don’t let them say ‘It depends.’ If your respondents can answer that way, you haven’t posed your question properly.”

Southwick discussed the times when you want to engage a professional researcher. Doing research on your own is fine for simple information, but for more complex questions (or when there are high stakes hinging on the results), it’s best to engage a professional research firm; NSSF works with a variety of researchers and can recommend one that suits the information you need. Southwick Associates also conducts an annual omnibus survey incorporating specialized and confidential questions from a variety of companies in the industry. This survey generally closes in March; contact Nancy Bacon at for more information for next year.

Market research can help you identify what your customers value about your brand, but perhaps more important is what you can find out about people who aren’t your customers. After all, that’s where your business has the most potential for growth.