We live in an age of the do-it-yourself mentality. This DIY focus is what home improvement stores such as Lowes and Home Depot have built their empires on. The same is true for the countless auto parts stores catering to the DIY guy (or gal). The thought process of why bother asking someone else when I can do it myself has crept into the marketing arena and thanks to the plethora of low-cost online survey platforms DIY has entered the marketing research world.
Is DIY market research a good thing or bad thing?
A reasoned pundit could argue either point. DIY brings the power to the people as it did when desktop publishing entered the picture in the late 1980s. Invariably it will bring the cost of services down to a level where more people or companies can afford to dive in. This is the good side of the equation. Now for the dark side…do-it-yourself market research using low-cost survey platforms cannot replace the expertise seasoned market researchers have gained over the years. This is the value we bring to the table.
Why is this important?
If the ultimate goal of market research is to reduce organizational risk by providing valid and reliable consumer or market data in order to better inform decision making, then DIY poses a serious risk to the equation. The DIY market researcher’s lack of savvy shows up in many ways including:
- Poor questionnaire development, including questions that are not properly designed, improper logic or too many questions
- Surveys that are not focused on providing answers to specific business questions
- Improper sample selection
- Failure to test for validity and reliability
If you are a corporate researcher focusing on either consumer or B2B market research then it is your role to guide your internal clients in the development of surveys that will yield accurate and reliable data without over-taxing the people you expect to participate in the project. Key approaches include:
Establishing agreed upon research objectives that balance both client and respondent concerns.
Guiding survey design so that it stays focused and capable of meeting said research objectives.
Employing project management best practices to keep the project moving forward.
I would also encourage researchers who are confronting pressure to perform DIY market research from internal and external clients to provide appropriate education to those pushing the DIY agenda. There are numerous online sources including QuestionPro, the American Marketing Association and Greenbook that offer solid foundational information to share with clients and information users.