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Thursday, 17 December 2009

The 7 deadly sins of DIY market research

It may seem tempting in these cost conscious times to bring projects back in house, to preserve cash flow as much as possible. On the face of it, it’s appealing. Market research is sometimes included in the list of projects that can be in-sourced. Precious marketing dollars can be allocated elsewhere, used to keep staff, or simply not spent. After all, how hard can it be? Most marketers probably remember their market research 101from university days. There are so many tools available to people on the web, automated survey builders and on-line polling software is springing up everywhere.

But the world of in house research is fraught with problems, unless your organistion employs formally trained market research professionals. Not only might your dream of dollars saved turn into a nightmare of hidden costs and missed deadlines, there is a very real chance that lack of experience and flawed methodologies could see your company making multi-million dollar decisions based on data that is...well, plain wrong! It’s a very risky strategy.

Here are the 7 deadly sins of DIY market research. You have been warned!

1. The first deadly sin is bias. Clearly, if you commission and carry out your own research there is a high chance that your own views, theories, desires and even your own "political axe to grind", will find their way into your project, via biased question selection and design.

2. Sample. Linked to the first deadly sin of bias, lack of knowledge of sampling techniques can lead to a seriously biased sample, skewing results and leading to woefully inaccurate data sets.

3. Lack of current knowledge. Market research is a continually evolving science and we learn new and better ways of doing things all the time. Missing out on this insight leaves your competitors who continue to use a high quality research firm several steps ahead of you.

4. Time away from your "real" job. The latest project might be a welcome distraction from your team’s core duties, but do you really want your team taking their eye off the ball? Let’s face it they were hired for a reason; better they stick to what they know if you want to maximise the effectiveness of your marketing.

5. "Tack-on" research: "Don’t worry, I’ll just add a few research questions to our direct marketing material", or worse still; "Don’t bother with that customer satisfaction project, I’ll just ask our sales reps to ask their customers if they are happy". Need we say more?

6. Completing interviews. Often in the initial flush of enthusiasm completing surveys does not appear to be an issue. However the law of diminishing returns dictates that completing quotas gets harder and harder, especially if you have designed a long interview. There is a real chance that timelines for the project will blow out or worst of all the project will simply fail to get completed, wasting a great deal of time, money and lost opportunity.

7. DIY design and analysis just doesn’t cut it. Sophisticated, advanced qualitative and quantitative questionnaire design and analysis, done by experts, often using expensive and complex software, allows for far greater insight.

Outsourcing your market research requirements makes sense both in financial terms and data accuracy and quality.

By Michael Trigwell, National Research Director

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

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