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  • Writer's pictureDiane Pierson

The Facts About Facts for Product Teams

Updated: Apr 11

Have you ever used a fact to justify an innovation project? Market insights SHOULD be a product team's foundation for any innovation decision. Sadly, too many of the “facts” we use to make decisions are old, inaccurately quoted or completely nonexistent when you dig down to the original source.


The Story of a "Fact"

A few months ago, I was looking for a data point on how many B2B phone calls go directly to voicemail, to try to quantify (or not) the use of cold-calling campaigns in a product launch. I found a great one. The statistic was cited in a 2020 blog post by a very well-regarded CRM platform provider. Here's the quote:


“According to noted expert Jane Smith*, 97% of all business calls now go to voicemail.”

Bingo! A stat from 2020 is a little old, but not bad. And there was a link to Ms. Smith’s site in post, so I could get more detail from the original source of the data.


product management and product marketers need the facts about market data from innovate on purpose

Well, not exactly. When I clicked through the link, it took me to another blog post – from 2013 – on a UK cryptocurrency site that quoted “sales strategist Jane Smith” and the same stat, but without any link to her site. I found MULTIPLE re-posts and quotes of this same "fact" on other reputable and current sites. The statistic was everywhere, but no original source. I decided to keep looking . . .


I finally found Ms. Smith's website. A quick review gave me no whitepaper, survey or other source for this seemingly ubiquitous fact. Because I knew how old the data was, I thought maybe she'd removed the full study from her website but made it available in other ways. After all, this statistic was being quoted in posts written as recently as a few weeks ago! So, I contacted Ms. Smith for comment. Surely, she would be able to give me more background on her original research and this widely quoted statistic? She was kind enough to reply:


"Diane, I wish I could help you with that statistic, but it’s been years. It most likely was a statistic I got from a tech company like ABC.com* or XYZ.com* … but that doesn’t help you. I can tell you that I didn't do any research to gather that data. Sorry, JANE"

Product Teams Must Separate Fact from Fairy Tale

In other words - NOBODY KNOWS where this "fact" came from. But it's out there, being reposted by billion-dollar companies, influencing decisions and justifying actions by product teams around the world.


I tell my clients and students that they have a sacred trust to justify product and go-to-market recommendations with market data. But it's got to be real data, from a documented, reliable, ORIGINAL source and current enough to be meaningful. Just because you see a statistic "everywhere" doesn’t mean it’s current, pertinent or even real. Be careful out there!


Market-driven teams are only as good as the data they're working with; it’s up to us to understand the facts about facts.


*Names and identifying details have been changed.


About the Author

Diane Pierson is the Founder and Chief Market Strategist of Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy enabling successful product commercialization for B2B tech companies. Order her book, How to Innovate on Purpose or contact Diane at dpierson@innovateonpurpose.com.

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