After the Liberals won the B.C. election, a single question quickly emerged: How did the pollsters get it so wrong?

Right from the start, after polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, the results were much different than what the pollsters were forecasting.

A May 10th Angus Reid poll showed that 45 per cent of 803 voters surveyed intended to support the NDP, while 36 per cent said they would vote for the Liberals. That was a nine-point overall lead over the Liberals. An earlier Ipsos Reid poll, which surveyed 800 adult British Columbians, found that 43 per cent of surveyed voters were supporting the NDP. And yet last night the Liberals celebrated a massive majority – all unexpected. OK, Clark was defeated in her own riding of Pt Grey, but that is another story.

The point I wanted to make here is that many, based on the above spectacular crash and burn of the pollsters credibility, might see a significantly reduced value in conducting their own market research for their products and services. That would be a colossal mistake! Here is why:

1. Political voting is surrounded by tremendous apathy – only 48% of BC voters actually voted in this election. When people purchase your product or service they have to actually pay for it. This act of payment with personal funds tends to remove apathy very quickly as we like to hang onto our money.

2. The ‘voting for’ or ‘purchasing of a government’ occurs only once every 4 years. Hopefully your clientele gives more frequent and action oriented thought to your business. Many eligible voters don’t give much or any active thought to the government until the next election.

3. Market demands for products and services tend to be more fluid in most sectors. Preferences change quickly and that is reflected in the consumption patterns of businesses and individuals. All you need to do is look to see how long the latest electronic device stays in favour with the market place – this can usually be measured in months. This is where market research can help keep you on top of trends in your arena of business.

Now I am certainly not advocating spending thousands of dollars on enlisting the services of a professional market research firm, although for mid sized and larger companies it should be considered. What I am suggesting is making sure you talk to your customers and suppliers to see what is trending in your sector. After all, you don’t want to be promised a ‘huge order’ and find out it won’t be provided, like Adrian Dix did last night.