The Internet provides market research resources that 15 years ago you could only dream about, so why not use them? Why would you pay a market research agency to run a survey when you can do yourself for a relatively small outlay?
1. DIY Survey Tools — They’re Cheap — What’s Not to Love?
Simply sign up to Survey Monkey, Survey Planet or some other free/cheap online survey tool, select your target audience and write your questions, then sit back and wait for your responses to roll in — well done — you saved loads of ££££!
Or is it…?
The question you need to ask before you take this route is: Are you confident you know how to write a good survey?
By this I mean, are you confident that you can write a survey that will provide accurate answers to your research objectives? Many a time, I’ve seen a suggested question from a client such as; ‘Do you understand what the term ‘XXX’ means in relation to your product?’
The output of this question could well be that 95% of customers fully understand what ‘XXX’ means. Fab! Box ticked! The marketing department are successfully communicating the meaning of ‘XXX’ to customers, no need to make any changes, carry on doing a great job.
But… do your customers really know what ‘XXX’ means? Do you remember being asked in the primary school playground if you knew the meaning of a word (perhaps a rude word!) that you had never heard of before? More than likely you would have said ‘yes’ so as not to sound ‘dumb’, or you may well have thought you knew what the word meant but you actually had no clue.
This is exactly what can happen in such circumstances and your customers are no different, may well think they know what ‘XXX’ means however they may, in fact, be entirely missing the point.
Asking respondents direct questions in relation to your research objectives will not necessarily harvest the insight you actually require, the truth. Survey writing is a skill, and yes if you are confident you can do this proficiently for authentic and actionable results, then go for it, ditch your market research agency and go down the unsupported DIY route.
But if it’s more likely that your findings will be biased, it might not be the money saving exercise you’d hoped…
2. Margins Squeezed? Why Not Cut Market Research All Together?
Market research is often one of the first areas to be culled in times of hardship; why waste money on market research when your target market isn’t spending? This is totally understandable, however understanding the revised needs and wants of your customers may well be key to survival in the here and now, to successful diversification, to new products, services or markets.
Taking your finger off the pulse may also leave you playing catch up when the tide turns. You may choose to press the insight pause button, but who’s to say competitors are following suit? You may have to cut back of course, sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if your market research agency is flexible, it’s all completely doable.
3. Qual is Just Talking to People — How Easy is That?!
Qualitative research is often looked upon with less kudos than quantitative research — given the option most people would like a large robust sample size on which to base their decisions, so what is the point in a discussion involving <20 people? And, if you do need to do it you can always do it yourself; it is basically just talking! The question I would ask here is simply, ‘Have you seen the Apprentice?’ — candidates’ attempts at conducting qualitative market research on this programme highlight to me exactly how NOT to do it.
Qualitative research can provide insight that you can never hope to achieve using a survey, it is an excellent way to explore why customers behave the way they do; their motivations, values, beliefs, but the techniques involved in extrapolating this information are an art, and not as shown in the Apprentice; not getting six people in a room and asking them if they prefer design ‘X’ or ‘Y’.
Another factor to consider is, can you remain objective? Being close to the end product/service etc. it is extremely difficult to analyse results objectively, especially when other business stakeholders have a preferred outcome in mind — let’s face it, nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news.
As with survey writing, if you are confident you can conduct the research objectively and feel you have the necessary expertise, why not ditch your market research agency and have a go yourself? But it doesn’t have to be either / or. If you’re on the fence an agency who provide part service might be the way to go. That way, they can step in to support you when you need a hand and step out when you don’t — job done!
4. Save Time — Market Research Agencies Take Too Long to Get You the Results You Need
Imagine a market research request from an internal stakeholder pings into your inbox and the deadline for results is in two weeks’ time; there is no way you can use a market research agency, it’ll take you that long just to commission and sign off the research design, so you will have to do it yourself.
Well… you may well be surprised, whilst it may seem faster to do it yourself at the outset, do you really have the time and the resources to meet this deadline? Online market research agencies particularly, can turn full projects around in much less time than was historically the case. They have the resources, contacts and expertise to ensure your research is designed and fielded fast.
Raw data can be provided quickly in user-friendly formats allowing for swift feedback into the business, and results can be analysed and presented in a wide range of styles, to ensure actionable and strategic decisions are confidently made.
5. Analysis, Schmalysis — Money for Old Rope
Why pay for a market research agency to analyse your results? You’ve asked the right questions, so surely you have all the information you need — ditch the agency!
Whilst you may have the information, what you are likely to be missing, is the insight. A well-analysed piece of research can provide you with so much more than question answers, giving you a much higher return on your research investment.
Professional quantitative analysis will reveal unexpected data patterns, patterns that will provide your business with greater insight as to how best to implement the findings. For example, a proposed marketing communication design may be identified as having an impact on certain customer segments, and not on others; allowing for successful targeting that may well have been overlooked.
For qualitative research, it is often the analysis of the ‘unsaid’ that provides the most insightful outcomes, in simply reading a focus group transcript or watching the recording the most interesting points may well be missed. Good qualitative researchers can interpret the task dynamics to provide value beyond the questions asked.