Let me start off by saying: I get it. I completely understand the importance of research results. I’ve directly witnessed large, international companies make major changes based on research I played a part in.
I have witnessed products pulled from shelves, actors fired from movies, or a complete rebranding of entire organizations based on feedback collected on projects I played a role.
Your market research results matter. A lot.
It can be hard to take a step back and hire a market research firm (especially if you have never worked with them) to take the reigns. However, if you choose the right company, that could be the best thing for your project.
If you are considering hiring a third-party market research company, there are likely several thoughts and considerations running through your mind.
All of which we aim to address each of these considerations in this blog post to help make your question of, “Should I hire a market research company?” a no-brainer.
Article Contents - Skip ahead by clicking the links below
- Should I conduct market research in-house?
- Why should I hire a research firm?
- What type of market research companies should I avoid?
- How can I find a trusted market research partner, not just a vendor?
There are countless blogs and articles written on the promise and ease of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) market research techniques.
The problem? Just because something appears to be easy, does not mean it will lead to successful results.
In most aspects of your business, “good enough” is not good enough. Do not make this mistake when choosing between DIY market research platforms and partnering with a full-service market research firm.
Before choosing between outsourced or in-house market research, consider the risks you may be taking when choosing the latter. We touch on the four concerns below.
1. Missing an outsider’s perspective
Most DIY researchers utilize an in-house approach because they believe no one knows their business or customers quite like they do.
They do not take a step back to consider knowing the ins and outs of their company may be more of a detriment to market research practices.
Businesses are run by passionate people, with strong thoughts and opinions.
Herein lies the danger of DIY market research. It is difficult to have a neutral view of a certain research topic because you are too involved with many aspects of your organization.
This often to different types of bias – the enemy of any market research company. Although usually subconscious, bias leads to skewed and tainted data in research.
Working with a third party ensures the results you receive are honest and truthful - especially with customer-facing surveys.
If you ask your customers directly about performance, a large percentage of respondents may be afraid to offer negative feedback or constructive criticism.
They choose not to respond because they fear their relationship or future business may be impacted by a negative response (i.e., “If I tell them I am unhappy, they may be less likely to return my calls, charge me more, or have an attitude when I talk to them next time.”)
The same can be said about research that is released to the public or used in marketing materials.
Even if your DIY marketing research efforts do not result in biased results, the data is sure to be viewed suspiciously by target audiences.
It seems self-serving when companies publish a report or results from a public relations survey exclaiming, “Our research shows our state-of-the-art vacuums have 5X the cleaning power over our competitors.”
Sure, Jan 🙄
Instead, let a third-party market research firm do the dirty work.
You will receive 100% unbiased and accurate results to share with other team members, customers, and prospects.
By including, “This research was conducted by X, a third-party market research company,” your findings are deemed more credible, reliable, and trustworthy (because they are).
2. Little experience and knowledge
Research analysts and project managers live, breathe, and sleep market research. It is what they do every day!
Market research agencies have years of experience ready at your disposal. They have the skills and know-how to perform the majority of things DIY market researchers are only planning to learn about.
What most of those “how-to” market research blogs do not discuss is the science behind survey writing.
There is so much more that goes into survey writing than simply asking a question.
Wording questions in a survey the wrong way or asking a question the wrong can be detrimental to the outcome. It could guide you in the wrong direction and make your efforts worse off.
The best market research firms consider factors like flow, timing, objectives, bias, and many other items to build a questionnaire.
For example, a retail store is preparing to go to market within the next year.
To test the effectiveness of their window display they surveyed pedestrians walking past the store, asking questions such as:
- Did you notice the storefront when you walked by?
- Do you like the window display of this store?
- Would you shop in this store?
These seem like pretty standard questions, right? The issue isn’t necessarily what the retail store is asking, it is what they are not asking.
A major question this DIY survey did not ask was:
“If you saw this store when you were walking or driving by, would you know what was inside? Would you need more information?”
By not asking the right type of questions, DIY market researchers are missing out on valuable information.
If customers in fact were confused by what the retail store was selling, the store would have incurred a lot more costs on redesigning their storefront than they would have on hiring an online survey company.
3. Choosing the wrong market research methodology
With hundreds and hundreds of market research methodologies to choose from, where does one begin?
- Are you aiming to explore?
- Are you aiming to measure?
- Is it possible to do both?
Is your head spinning, yet? The last question, I promise.
You are never short of options when looking to conduct market research.
However, with DIY market research, it is possible you are not choosing the right methodology to best answer those important business questions.
Seemingly the starting point for a lot of DIY marketers is choosing between qualitative or quantitative.
Ideally, market research that achieves desirable and actionable results generally includes both types of methods.
This ‘either/or’ thinking of exploring or measuring limits creativity in the research design process. Our market research company knows every methodology has its own advantages and disadvantages and should be judged based on the objective of the research.
This is your starting point 🏁
Jumping straight into a decision about qualitative or quantitative will completely eliminate a whole list of options from the very beginning.
When choosing to work with a qualified market research company rather than doing it on your own, there is no risk of preconceptions or misunderstanding of what methodology to use.
4. Lack of time and resources
The quality of DIY research is often compromised by the lack of time and available resources among a company. Take it from us – conducting quality market research, while it may look easy, can be very time-consuming.
At a glance, proper marketing research requires design, coding, participant recruiting, fieldwork with qualified participants, analyzing the data, and finally a comprehensive research report.
There are few instances in which a company will have the bandwidth or qualified in-house team members to get the job done, and done well.
However, a company conducting DIY market research will almost always use more effort, only to make more mistakes.
By outsourcing this task to a marketing research firm, you will save your department countless hours as the marketing research firm will take on the project in a more objective and efficient way.
There is always the option of utilizing both in-house and outsourced market research efforts.
For example, some companies have an in-house team or those who are more comfortable with DIY research. These team members are responsible for conducting more everyday data research.
This same company also chooses to outsource more complex projects such as focus groups or in-depth interviews to ensure daily business objectives are not lost.
Remember, with market research you have endless options!
Still not convinced? Learn the pros and cons of conducting market research in-house vs. outsourced.
The Key Takeaway
When you hire a market research firm, you’re investing in expertise, quality work, and open communication. Conducting market research in-house can lead to a number of issues, especially bias towards one’s own company.
Internal bias in this case may even be subconscious, but can still be detrimental to a company. Just because you use a third-party company to conduct research doesn’t mean they won’t “get” your business. Market research firms can understand your business and provide reliable information while still remaining unbiased.
A third-party research company provides brands with fact-based and evidence-based data to help guide organizational decisions around operations, marketing, and strategy.
It provides an objective point of view through the lens of other experts, customers, and potential customers of your brand depending on the type of market research.
Here are just a few examples of where our team can help.
Scoping the project
Online surveys, in-depth interviews, focus groups, online bulletin boards, intercepts, the list goes on and on!
What type of methodology is best to reach your objectives? How many respondents will you need? How fast can you complete it?
These are all questions our team could help you answer. All you need is a loose idea of your objectives, and we can help you refine and run with it from there!
Developing screening criteria
Screener writing is an art. Seriously.
Think of a recruitment screener like a classic gameboard. You have your start and finish lines, and you need to develop a path to get from one to the other.
- What questions do you need to ask to qualify your target participant?
- Are you losing out on qualified participants because of the question design?
- Are all options exhaustive?
For example, I’ve seen screening questionnaires disqualifying otherwise eligible participants on a B2B study just because their job title doesn’t appear to qualify - but they were a great fit for the project!
Adding questions regarding roles and responsibilities, their involvement in decision-making, implementation, etc. can keep you from missing out on your target audience because of something as interchangeable as a job title!
These are all things our team is consistently thinking about when developing questionnaires.
Developing and distributing communication materials
If you’ve ever worked on a qualitative study, you know it can take a lot out of your resources to manage participant communications.
Some firms may get around this with an automated process (which I do not recommend). Not only do we take the opposite approach by building a relationship with each individual participant on each research project - but we truly enjoy it!
We can create the communication materials such as confirmations, project instructions, email campaigns, follow-up reminders, or any other materials your project may require and distribute them on your behalf.
Each participant is given a single point of contact they can reach out to through text, email, or call at any point where they have a question.
Let us save your resources - we’re there for our clients and participants every step of the way!
Recruitment and fielding
I’ll start with a short anecdote - many moons ago on an intercept project, someone asked how it felt to be a beggar with a clipboard. The only response I could think of was … “fun!” (They still didn’t do our survey though)
When it comes to cold-calling, grassroots outreach, or intercepting, it takes a specific type of person that is okay with just putting themselves out there to get complete strangers engaged.
It takes a unique personality type, and it’s OK if it’s not for you, but this type of outreach is just another day at the job for our team.
Not only are we completely comfortable with it, we know a few tips and tricks to help engagement.
Not intercepting, cold-calling, or conducting cold outreach? There are still things you should know:
- What targeting do you need to reach your target audience?
- What platform(s) will you be using?
- What are the other options you can use if the platform or targeting doesn’t provide enough results?
- What should you (and should you not) say in your campaign?
- What data checks should you implement to ensure you have high-quality participants or data?
If you haven’t guessed by now…we can help with that! Our team has experience recruiting participants from all walks of life; from families living in high poverty to fortune 500 CEOs.
Before we even bid on a project, we have come up with multiple plans to reach, engage, and recruit your target audience.
Moderation guides and moderation
Similar to a recruitment screener, our team knows which questions to ask to obtain the needed information.
We stay up to date on current trends and best practices in the industry.
We know which questions to (and not to) ask to dig deep for the insights to meet your core objectives.
Developing a report
The contents of your report ultimately depend on the objectives of the project, but we’ve got you covered!
Our team has experience with reports as small as an email summary or as large as hundreds of pages.
We can help you with analyzing quantitative survey data and turning that data and statistics into an actionable story.
This not only helps you, your team, and/or your clients digest the data but also takes immediate action based on the findings.
To my point above, we do our best to lay out our research findings in an easy-to-understand format.
Even then, it can be tough to present those findings to a larger team - especially if the results are not favorable.
Our team has experience presenting findings to small teams or large conventions. Fear of public speaking? Drive Research has your back!
We’ve talked about what we can help with - but why should you let us? Well……
We care, a lot
I’ll be honest, I’ve had my share of extremely challenging clients over the last 10 years but I have never wanted a project to fail.
It’s actually the opposite. The more challenging a project is, the more attention is put toward it.
Not to mention, the more challenging a project, the more we want it to succeed. Call it selfish, but I know personally there is a much larger feeling of satisfaction after pulling off a project against all odds.
The easy projects are fun too, but nothing beats the feeling of a happy client at the finish line of an extremely challenging project.
We want to deliver for our clients, no matter the circumstances. No one wants the reputation as the researcher that completely dropped the ball. We always want our clients to sing our praises.
We have the experience
Whether it be your objectives, research method, audience, or something else, more than likely our team has experience in that area.
While research projects are like snowflakes and no two projects are completely identical, our previous experience and general research knowledge provide us with the insight needed to make recommendations based on your needs.
Our team wears and has worn many hats and with nearly a century of combined experience working in market research, our expert team makes recommendations based on previous projects and experiences, both positive and negative.
We’ve done the background work
If there is a signed contract in place, that means we have done the front-end research and have multiple plans in place to reach your audience, objectives, and so on.
We are not a bid first, ask questions later firm. If you submit a project request to us, you should probably expect a bit of back and forth before we provide you with an estimate of costs.
Our custom bidding process is lengthier than many other vendors. This is due to the amount of time it takes for us to look into each unique audience and not only check feasibility, but to create a unique plan to reach and recruit them.
When we bid on your project, we have thought through each step of the project and not only came up with a plan but have many backup plans in mind to reach the end result you desire.
Ultimately, it’s your call
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for the clients to hire us to not ask questions. We’re researchers - we love questions!
All I’m saying is, trust your research team’s judgment. When a recommendation is made, it is done with all parties in mind.
This includes you, your client, the study participants, and the research project as a whole.
If it doesn’t make sense, call us out. Let us back up our words with our work. We probably have a case study or blog to prove it.
When you refuse to consider or explore the research team’s recommendation, you are doing yourself, your client, and the research as a whole a disservice.
At the end of the day, you are in the driver’s seat of your project, but at least hear us out.
Let us make our case on why our recommendations were made. Trust us - we’re pretty good at what we do.
The Key Takeaway
Putting it simply, there are loads of market research methods a company can use to gain unique insights about your brand.
From expert opinions to strong client relationships, we understand that market research isn’t just about data–it’s about building a foundation of understanding to ultimately take a business to new levels.
If you hang out in our office for a day in Syracuse, you’ll hear words thrown around like:
In fact, probably not a day goes by when our staff does not hear those three words in reference to how we do business at Drive Research.
Dinosaurs are how we refer to other market research companies.
Different is how we operate on a day-to-day basis with our clients, respondents, and employees.
Perspective is always top-of-mind. In research we’ve learned what matters is others’ opinions. We tabulate those opinions and help our clients make decisions.
It’s one of our four core values including Drive, Responsiveness, and Growth.
What do dinosaur market research companies do wrong? 🦖🦖 Keep reading to find out.
1. Dinosaurs write complicated screeners that cause 0.00001% IRs
Note that if you are a brand looking to do research with an audience with an incidence rate (IR) of .00001% of the general population to learn about how to better sell your product, please understand a few things.
First, not only can you not do research with this audience, but second, you likely will not be able to find anyone to sell to either once the research is done.
We’ll save you the work. Find a larger target audience.
Perhaps what bothers us the most is the lack of foresight to understand they are writing a screener that will produce an IR that is minuscule.
A good market research company should be able to glance at a screener and let its client know whether or not the audience will be too difficult to reach.
These are conversations that need to happen at the very beginning of the project, but for some reason, they are not happening with other market research companies.
When our team writes a screener or a client talks to us about finding a hyper-specific audience, we always have a conversation with them to help them understand what adjustments can be made to make the research more feasible.
It’s all part of being a good consultant, and going beyond the basic market research duties.
2. Dinosaurs tend to lack transparency with IRs
That's because they know how to work the system.
I’ve lost count of the number of times where we have tried to help other research firms through our qualitative recruiting services where we were promised an IR double or triple the actual result.
Then it becomes a battle of increasing cost versus pushback on our team.
It’s a lose-lose for both of us.
The client is not happy because the return and sign-ups are less than anticipated. We are not happy because we fully exhausted a planned budget without filling the segments.
Be up-front as a market research firm, business, or person.
3. Dinosaurs launch online surveys for their clients that last 30+ mins.
Seriously, who has the time?
It’s difficult for most consumers to keep their attention and focus for 40 seconds, let alone an entire 40 minutes of a survey. I know you expect the most from respondents, but dinosaurs ask too much.
As a research firm, your client may want 100 questions in the survey, but that is where you need to be a good consultant and push back and tell the story about less being more.
The value and insights you get from an engaging 5-minute, 15-question survey far outweigh the lack of credible responses to a 40-minute survey where respondents zone in and out.
4. Dinosaurs tell false truths
Especially when it comes to the length of the interview (LOI) with respondents.
The funny paradox here is dinosaurs know that if they tell a respondent the survey will take 40 minutes in the introduction, they’ll have so many people getting out of dodge, they won’t generate enough sample size.
So what do they do?
They knowingly underestimate the completion time for a survey by an egregious number of minutes.
As you are reading this think back to the last few surveys you have taken.
How many of those survey sponsors told you it would take 10 minutes to complete? 25 minutes later your progress bar is 65% complete right?
They know what they are doing and they think they are smarter than respondents which leads to the mentality that they can be taken advantage of.
This ultimately hurts our industry because respondents lose trust in market research firms.
They are burned and don’t return a second time to take another survey.
Our industry does not exist with respondents not willingly giving up their time to offer feedback. If we have no respondents, we have no market research, and all market research companies cease to exist.
The respondent experience needs to be a bigger focus in the industry.
5. Too big of expectations
I've seen it time and time again.
Sub-par moderators with little to no experience take issue with the lack of participant dialogue expecting to generate conversation like it’s an episode of The View on ABC.
Anyone who has done qualitative research for some amount of time knows it’s a mixed bag. There is no way around it. Some of the most qualified focus group participants screened can have an off day and not be talkative in a group.
There are superstars, passable participants, and duds in qualitative research.
Just don’t put all of your eggs in one basket because of this. That’s why conducting just a single focus group is never recommended.
But when the topic you discuss is specific types of diseases, health conditions, and other topics that might embarrass a participant, it makes perfect sense they will shell up when talking to a stranger.
Only moderators with must-have qualities can work through those situations and have these challenging conversations in a qualitative research project.
We wrote about a mindset in this article that talks about good participants versus good research and how there is a difference.
It gives real examples of how a market research team and moderators who worked for a world-renown brand cared more about putting together a well-written report than they did having real conversations with participants.
Moderating is tough. The best moderators can get what they need and pull insights from any participant.
If you run a focus group with work-at-home moms to talk about the food they prepare for their children, you would not ONLY want to talk to 10 mothers who have 10+ years of culinary experience working at 5-star restaurants, would you?
Think about that. 🤔🤔🤔
When your aim is to fill focus groups with superstar participants, your report may be awesome, but the research is not representative of the audience your product is trying to reach.
The world exists with introverts and extroverts if you are only looking for extroverts in your qualitative research because they are comfortable in a fake setting, can talk at length, and are articulate, you need to reassess your role as a market research consultant because you are doing your client an injustice.
That might be a great report for your boss, but that’s bad research. No way around it.
The Key Takeaway
To paraphrase an old quote but a favorite of mine from the Josh Welton book Seducing Strangers Through Advertising: Better is not the opinion of the seller. Better is the opinion of the buyer.
What opinions on third-party research firms have we heard from businesses in the same shoes as you? These items below help outline some of the frustration points both we and our clients have shared when working with dinosaur market research companies across the country.
We don’t want to bore you with the same old information you read online about choosing vendors.
If you do a quick search about this on Google, it will likely result in you reading a few dinosaur-like posts about how their firm offers hundreds of years of combined experience, how quick they are, how affordable they are, etc.
Every market research firm claims that (including us).
Here are five unique reasons you should hire a market research firm like Drive Research.
These are items that differentiate us from the pack and have helped us grow quickly in our first five years of business.
1. Our culture is about teaching and educating clients ✏️🏫
If you browse our site for a few minutes, you may notice something different about us. It’s something that differentiates our brand from not only other market research companies but any company in general across the country.
We're not kidding. Our market research blog is on steroids.
Seriously, we have over 1,000 articles (and counting) about market research tips, trends, and guides. Our team blogs.
Every 👏 Single 👏 Day 👏
Secrecy and confidentiality have always been number one with dinosaurs.
Other market research companies don’t want to share or write about their secret sauce. They think their online survey process is revolutionary so they cannot talk to anyone about it other than clients.
We are the opposite. Our cookbook is out in the open for everyone to read.
It’s all here.
No paid training modules.
We have always said a reader can spend an entire day on our blog and come away able to write a pretty good survey, understand how to do the analysis, and write a report.
But, if you need us, we’re here.
We feel this approach builds quite a bit of trust and honesty in our brand. The best practices we use for your project are echoed throughout our website.
This is why our market research firm works so well with brands that are new to market research or need advice. Our thought leadership and educational approach are insightful.
Our team guides you through the reasoning behind all of the steps we take and helps you learn about our work.
Teaching and education are evident in every facet of our culture.
2. We work based on productivity ⏩
Many organizations grapple with the ability to empower employees with the freedom to get their work done.
Remote working and work-from-home policies are often viewed negatively by upper management because of the feeling they need to watch over and micromanage staff in order to get things done.
If you cannot trust your employees, why did you hire them in the first place?
Drive Research has offered flexible work hours since the very beginning, no-questions time-off policies, and the freedom to take vacations whenever with no limit.
We expect our employees to take ownership of their work, manage their clients, manage deadlines, and enjoy their work. If you have this in place, employees actually want to work.
You, as the paying client, get a better work product from this.
Creating a culture where employees feel they need to stay after hours to be noticed has the reverse effect on efficiency and productivity.
If you know you need to stay after 5:00 p.m. in order to look good, what is the rush to finish a task ahead of a deadline?
In fact, you may milk the task since you will be staying late anyway.
However, if you offer a flexible schedule and do not ridicule staff for taking time off, the employees will work harder and get their tasks completed more accurately and efficiently because they are focused and productive.
That benefits them and it benefits our brands who chose our market research firm. It’s a win-win.
3. We are all on the front line for our clients 🦸🦸♀️
The entire Drive Research team is willing to chip in whenever it’s needed, no matter the task.
Essentially, our team can be viewed as a pairing of interchangeable parts. No task is above or below anyone and we all value each other’s time.
No matter the title or role, our staff jumps in on coding, phone calls, reminder emails, technical issues, etc. The list goes on.
To quote Simon Sinek, “Time is the ultimate currency in business. It’s an equal and unredeemable currency for everyone. Customers and employees put a premium on people and companies who give them their time.”
We are always willing to give respondents, clients, and our team members time when they need it.
4. We care about the respondent (not just the client) 🤗
The respondent is the often forgotten and underappreciated piece of market research.
Our market research company flips that idea and puts a lot of attention to a good respondent experience with our team. We like to create engaging surveys, which often mean short surveys.
Dinosaurs love their 20+ minute surveys. We hate them.
We like to set accurate estimations for our survey and then meet them. It keeps everything aligned.
If our survey takes 5 minutes, we tell respondents it will take 5 minutes. If our survey contains 15 questions, we tell them it contains 15 questions.
Other market research companies abuse this relationship with respondents.
If respondents fulfill their obligation and offer you quality feedback on an online survey, phone interview, or online focus group and you owe them a reward. Pay them. As soon as you can.
They held up their end of the bargain. It’s nonsense to tell them you need to wait for a reward for weeks or months. However, this is often the sad truth with dinosaur market research firms.
Do our respondents love us? Check out our Google ratings.
We are big believers that a positive respondent experience equals higher quality results and feedback for market research.
5. We don’t strike fear in analytics and our clients 🙅♂️🙅♀️
Market research can be intimidating. Particularly for first-time users. Dinosaurs love overwhelming their clients with their knowledge and telling them how smart they are.
In fact, they should be doing the opposite and trying to simplify things. Offer quick nuggets of insights, digestible data points, infographics, and other summaries or toplines.
A lot of market research firms won’t touch on recommendations or the next steps which is a shame.
That’s where the value lies in market research: Where do we go from here?
The best market research companies provide brands with the “so what” of the analysis. It helps bridge the gap in improving operations, marketing, and strategy.
Always work to evolve your deliverables and your reports with brands.
If a market research firm is not embarrassed by something they look back at from 2 years ago, they are not evolving fast enough. Always try to make the analysis and interpretation of the data easier for your client.
What does Drive Research do differently?
At our office and focus group facility, you might be able to catch a quick episode of Shark Tank on the 82” Samsung TV, sneak in a quick game of Double Dragon II on classic Nintendo, challenge a colleague to a round of ping pong on the rollable focus group tables, or grab an adult beverage from the fridge.
Work hard. Play hard.
Even though we don’t play as often as we should.
One might think of a market research firm as a team of button-up shirts carrying calculators around the office, but we aim to break the mold a bit.
As an anti-market research firm, we do a lot of things differently than the dinosaurs. All of these touchpoints are focused on three simple missions:
- Improving the market research experience for our clients ✅
- Improving the market research experience for our respondents ✅
- Improving the market research experience for our employees ✅
It is really that simple. Those are the three core audiences we care about at Drive Research. Everything we do centers around improving the experiences for those audiences.
The worst market research firms are terrible at all three.
The bad market research firms are terrible at two of the three.
Good market research firms do well on two of the three.
The best market research firms are outstanding with all three audiences.
The Key Takeaway
Seasoned market research teams are able to quickly understand the main picture of a client’s needs. Successful market research firms don’t craft dragging surveys that can take almost an hour to complete. Since Day 1, Drive Research has set out to be a new kind of market research firm.
The anti-market research firm. 🙃🙃
And we take a lot of pride in doing things differently in all aspects of our business. It’s a big part of our brand, our story, our success, and our growth.
If you’re looking for a market research expert, look no further than our team at Drive Research. We’re happy to educate clients about the research we’re doing– no one gets left in the dark.
You’ll be able to understand what works best for our clients and why we do things the way we do. Our employees are able to enjoy a flexible, productive schedule. A happy staff provides happy work! We’ll craft time-efficient surveys to get you the answers you need.
Contact us below for a quote or a proposal. We’ll get back to you within a few hours.
- Message us on our website
- Email us at [email protected]
- Call us at 888-725-DATA
- Text us at 315-303-2040
George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX-certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.
Learn more about George, here.