Member or customer surveys. Net promoter scores. Mystery shops. Focus groups. Marketing customer information files (MCIF). Web analytics. When it comes to gathering research there is certainly no shortage of options for financial institutions. But with all that fantastic information also comes a trap.

The procrastination trap. Some might even say the “paralysis by analysis” trap.

Research can become procrastination

That trap goes something like this: you are about to make a big decision (for example, building a branch, launching a new product or changing your name) so you start gathering research. You review key data from your system, which takes a few weeks or months. Then you think you need to ask current members or customers their opinions so you conduct a survey, which takes another few weeks or months. Then you realize you should study your markets so you conduct a focus groups, which takes another few weeks or months.

Before you realize it, you look up and what once started as an easy and somewhat fast decision has turned into an unnecessary several months long project. Sometimes in an effort to please everyone or make sure you are 1,000% correct you do more and more and more research.

Just to be clear: I am not saying research is unimportant. You should certainly use all the research tools at your disposal. In fact, research is a fundamental cornerstone when it comes to marketing. For example, in our trademarked four-step branding process, step number one is research (including surveys, branch audits, market analysis, demographic data, etc.). You can’t develop a strategy without research.

However, sometimes too much research—or research that takes too long—can slow down a decision you know in your gut is correct. In other words, I would venture to say that when it comes to most credit unions or banks, they probably know what strategic decision is correct. The problem is not the data or lack of information: it’s delaying making the decision.

You should absolutely use research. Conduct surveys, study your market and pour over numbers.

Just don’t let research slow down the actual strategic decision.