Why DIY marketing research is good for our industry

There is a lot of talk among marketing researchers that DIY research is bad for the industry. I, for one, am not convinced.

I understand the fear among research suppliers that DIY will cut into their business. I also understand that, in the wrong hands, DIY research can result in inaccurate, misleading data and also alienate respondents through over-surveying.

But it seems to me that the research tools and techniques now available (both DIY and custom) are allowing more firms than ever to conduct some form of market research. And in the end, isn’t that a good thing?

In my view, the more companies gain access to – and see the value of – marketing research data, the more money they will eventually spend on research.

I’ve seen this exact situation firsthand. An acquaintance of mine was recently promoted to the head of marketing for a multimillion-dollar international auto parts company. The firm – a family-owned, privately held entity – had never conducted market research. When my friend took the job, he quickly realized that the company needed to better understand its distributors, the auto-parts stores that sell its products and, of course, its customers.

Not having any real survey budget (or probably experience), he used SurveyMonkey and queried the company’s connections on Facebook and LinkedIn. It didn’t take him long to realize that the data he received back was flawed. But, he told me, it gave him a great thirst for more information. He took the data (imperfect though it was) and convinced the owner of the company to give him $20,000 to hire a data collection company to survey their clients.

In talking to him, I could already tell he wanted to go beyond simple surveys. He wanted to do tracking studies and measure marketing campaign effectiveness. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in a few years, this firm has an established research budget (assuming he and the supplier he chooses can show ROI on the surveys). And it will have all started because they were able to do research themselves at a low cost.

I imagine this scenario (perhaps on a smaller scale) is now playing out at a lot of small to mid-size firms. It presents a challenge for marketing research suppliers, one that requires them to adapt and change. After all, when data-gathering becomes something that anyone can do – when research companies can no longer charge a premium for it – what’s left?

Analysis and expertise. Those things, rather than collecting responses, are worth paying for.

Andrew Jeavons of SurveyAnalytics explored some of these ideas in a great post on DIY research. I’d love to hear from the rest of you with your thoughts on the impact of DIY research.

This entry was posted in Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, Research Industry Trends, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why DIY marketing research is good for our industry

  1. Focus Groups says:

    Hi all,

    I just wanted to take a minute to tell you that you have a great site! Keep up the good work.

  2. Steven also says:

    Hi Steve

    I would have to agree with your assessment of DIY exposing new markets to the merit of good research. I also wanted to point out that DIY does not only apply to non research professionals but also applies to research companies, research consultants and those research professionals dotted throughout the marketing departments of large companies and adverting agencies. I particularly refer to new online qualitative research tools which are now available to research professionals to compliment their traditional offline research services. These tools should natural evolve into DIY service offerings which are freely available to the industry as part of the researchers toolkit and don’t require costly technical experts to implement, manage or moderate.

  3. stuart baum says:

    Great post. 100% agree with this line: “And in the end, isn’t that a good thing?”

    And this line from Jeavon’s post: “If any industry has to resort to protectionism then it deserves to die.”

    For years I’ve been telling people to dip their toe into _____, before they jump in with both feet.

    This seems especially true with research. So many people contract for expensive research and yet have no idea what to do next. Or, really, why they are even doing the research. (“Maybe we’ll learn something.” “Wanna bet?” … unless you plan to learn to be more careful with your marketing dollars next time.)

    If they do a little DIY, they will get some sense of what they might find and can then create ‘if/then’ scenarios. The fuller research could very well show them the opposite of what they “learned” is true (they only got responses from outliers, their methods were flawed, etc.), but in most cases, they’ll get a more complete picture, not a different one. and can ask pinpoint, actionable questions.

    Social Media lets us dip out toes in a little deeper here. This is only bad if we assume it’s definitive.

  4. Peter Dominowski says:

    Perhaps the clients I work with are less sophisticated, but unfortunately, I have found that most lack the knowledge and experience to determine whether or not their research is flawed. They have no idea what constitutes a valid sample, have difficulty in creating bias-free surveys, etc. Their primary concern is to get answers, whether or not they are valid or actionable…