There are lots of reasons people consider doing their own market research. Hiring a full-service research firm can be more expensive and they might be thinking they can’t afford it, but here’s what they should be thinking: can they afford not to? If you are a researcher with experience in design, programming, fielding, sampling, reporting, and analysis, then please move on to the next item in your inbox. If not, below are a few challenges to consider when thinking about going rogue with DIY research:
1) It can waste a lot of time.
Everything worth doing takes time. If you choose to do your own market research, you have to set up the survey, track down potential participants, handle all the emails and logistics of sending out the survey and trying to get the results back, then analyzing the results yourself.
Don’t forget that it’s not as easy to get the surveys back as it is to send them out. Most people leave them sitting in their inboxes or delete them right away, which means you have to spend time reminding them you’re still waiting on the survey and sending out exponentially more surveys than the number of responses you need. It’s not the kind of project that can be done in an afternoon, and, more often than not, you’re better off leaving it to the professionals while you focus on doing what you do best.
2) It’s not the form that matters, it’s what goes in the form.
It might be easy enough to build your own form with the questions you want answered and send them out to the people you want to answer them, but the hardest part is usually finding the right questions. Even if the form looks good and you manage to contact the right survey respondents, it won’t matter if you’re not asking them the right questions. You need to know what to ask in order to get the results you need, which leads to the third reason not to use DIY market research…
3) The results aren’t as accurate.
A study conducted in 2011 found that DIY market research tested lower for analytical analysis and data quality compared to professional research firms. No matter how determined you are to dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s, even those with the best intentions can design and conduct studies that end up doing more harm than good.
This goes back to #1 in that you end up wasting a lot of time. If the results of your market research aren’t accurate, you’ll end up targeting the wrong audience. Your message will be less effective, because it won’t be reaching the people who really need your product/services. This means you’ll end up spending twice as much time to get half the clients you could have gotten with accurate market research results.
Alternatively, market research companies have teams of people devoted to identifying and tracking down high-quality samples, making sure they have enough raw data to get statistically significant results, analyzing the data, and finally compiling it into useful, actionable results for you and your company.
Many of them also have another research professional look over their work. The reason peer-reviewed journals have so much credibility is because we all make mistakes and we all have biases that can sneak into our studies without our realizing it. Researchers rely on their peers to review their work and confirm that they produced accurate data.
However hesitant you may be to pay for quality market research provided by a professional, there are few things worse than investing significant resources into a failed study. The possibility of putting budget toward hiring a firm to fix the above issues or even worse, to make a business decision based on inaccurate information seems to pale in comparison to perceived cost savings of DIY.