Online research and inexpensive online survey tools make conducting market research so easy. So easy that companies wonder why they would ever need to commission custom research.
We could write a book on the upside of commissioning market research. Honestly, though, whether to commission a custom study, do one in-house, or just rely on a study someone else has conducted comes down to your goals — what you need to know and how you are going to use that information.
We have conducted research on virtually every topic you can imagine and we have learned there are three situations in which commissioning third-party research is the right choice.
- You want to make informed market decisions regarding a product launch, branding, or your performance.
There are times in every business when assumptions, internal team consensus or vocal influencers drive marketing or management decisions. While this approach may work sometimes, a wrong hunch or biased speculation can cost your business millions of dollars and months or years of time. Statistically, valid data either supports the hunch or debunks it. Just as important, market-validated data can also reveal trends and perceptions you never considered. We’ve had customers realize a simple change in message could help them market existing products rather than developing a new product from scratch; or a new position they wanted to pursue was perceived as poorly aligned with their image and brand. These insights saved significant time and financial investment into strategies, products, and positioning that would not have garnered successful results.
You can use in-house tools to develop a survey, but when millions of dollars are on the line, you need statistically valid data. A key component of getting that from your survey comes down to the survey design. Have you taken a survey and wondered why questions are phrased a certain way? Survey design is a skill honed over years of experience. Market research experts know how to write questions that will produce unambiguous data you can trust.
- You want to garner data and insights that are specific and proprietary to your business, giving you a competitive advantage.
We love looking at the results of large, syndicated research studies. They are great to get snapshot overviews of market trends. Yet a significant downside of using the results of a study someone else conducted is the study probably was not designed to address the information your business needs to make decisions, or get at all the whys in the research results. In addition, your competitors also have access to the same data. Many of our clients conduct studies giving them insights their competitors do not have… unless those companies also conduct custom research. While you may be able to get some of this custom data from a self-designed study, commissioning research ensures you get unbiased results that produce in-depth and actionable insights.
- You want objective results and an unbiased perspective.
Market research needs to be objective to be effective. Using a third-party research firm will go a long way toward ensuring candor and honesty from your survey audience, whether your existing customers or a cross-section of the market. A third-party firm can also solicit responses from a range of people, ensuring the results are truly objective (and hence of real use to you). And a professional research firm will construct a methodology and survey designed to garner maximum participation and unbiased responses.
As importantly, a market research firm can give you an unbiased analysis of the results. An independent firm is not emotionally attached to the outcome — they won’t unwittingly interpret the results to support your desires. That leads to an neutral picture of what your customers and prospects think. This objectivity is critical when you are collecting customer satisfaction data, need to assess your brand or want to profile your competition.
If you wish to use research in your marketing efforts, one of the challenges with performing your own research is asking the marketplace to “take your word for it,” that the research and outcomes are unbiased. When it comes to positioning as a thought leader, objectivity goes a long way to validate your stance in the marketplace. Customers and prospects will respect the outcomes of commissioned research more because it comes from an unbiased, independent third party. A reputable research provider will be able to stand behind their methodologies, survey design, and statistical analysis.
Understanding what your customers want and how they perceive your business is important to growth, successful go-to market efforts, and maintaining position in a competitive landscape. As we enter 2017, consider the impact of custom research to deliver key results:
- Answer specific questions
- Garner deep insights
- Provide a competitive advantage in your market
- Validate your expertise as a thought leader
Learn more about the problems market research can solve.