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There's no "DIY" in Audience Analysis

Three Reasons Why You Need an Independent Market Research Consultant

Imagine you’re about to develop a new product and you want to explore what your current or prospective customers think of the idea so you can use their input in your development process. It sounds simple enough: throw some questions into an online survey platform and send it out to your entire email list. Once everyone responds to your survey, your takeaways will be obvious and you’ll proceed to effortlessly create the next must-have product!

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. In reality, the process of gathering data from your audience and turning that data into actionable insights to achieve your desired results is part art, part science, and 100% worthy of a specialist’s focus. Here are just a few of the many reasons why research and analysis are not places to cut corners (and costs) in favor of doing it yourself.


1) When objectivity matters, you can’t escape your unconscious biases:

When you’re talking audience research, no one wants biased or skewed results. Well, at least not consciously! In fact, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to leave our own opinions and beliefs at the door when it comes to topics we’re passionate about. If you conduct your own research, everything from the way you phrase questions to the results you emphasize can be influenced by your own beliefs and desires for the outcome—even if you try really hard to be objective.

These common cognitive biases can get in the way without you even realizing it:

  • Confirmation bias: Perhaps most likely to impact your research is the innate human tendency to pay more attention to information that confirms our existing beliefs. Whether you’re certain your newest idea is a win, or you think your teammates are crazy for suggesting it, you might find your research always seems to back up the opinion you’ve already formed. Using an outside researcher eliminates this issue since your third-party isn’t emotionally invested the same way you are and has years of experience in separating their personal opinions from the data-gathering process. On top of that, the best researchers will avoid asking for your perception or expected feedback so they can listen impartially to what their interviewees are saying.


  • Availability heuristic: Heuristics are instantaneous shortcuts our brain uses to reach snap decisions and save processing power for the things in life that require deeper thought. While you may think analyzing research is one of those situations, your brain actually says otherwise. It’s easy to interpret data incorrectly because our brains naturally give greater weight to things that are more “available.” This availability can be caused by seeing an item—such as a survey answer—more recently or more frequently, so you believe it’s actually more prevalent even if, all things considered, it is not.

  • Clustering illusion: One of our brain’s most important jobs is to make sense out of a mostly random and chaotic world. So, it’s no wonder people are likely to see patterns all over the place—even where none exist. When conducting research, the patterns that emerge are key to successful outcomes, takeaways, and recommendations of your research. A professional researcher knows how to quantify data and interpret it while accounting for the sometimes-false perception of patterns, not relying on what “feels” like a recurring theme.

There are dozens of other cognitive biases that may come into play, but even with just these three alone, it’s clear you won’t get the best results when you try to do it yourself.

2) Knowing which questions to ask is half the battle

Okay, maybe you can throw together an online survey; and maybe you can even get a large portion of your audience to fill it out. Don’t get too excited quite yet, though. Your responses and your end results will only be as good as the questions you asked. By not asking the right questions, you could be missing out on the real issues you need to address. And, don’t think your customers will just volunteer that information without being asked specifically. While leaving an open text box may get a few of your most vocal respondents to elaborate, experience shows that simply asking if there’s anything else someone wants to say, the results will mostly end in blank spaces.

This is why using an independent, third-party, consulting firm can make all the difference. We’ve been doing this for a long time and know both which questions are necessary to drill down into the root of your inquiry, and how to ask those questions in a way that will require the respondent to provide details, examples, and information even they didn’t realize they could quantify. This doesn’t just apply to surveys: using a professional results in better follow-up questions during in-person interviews as well.

3) Objective third parties instill trust and foster honest feedback

One large disadvantage to conducting your own market research is the perception (even if this is not true) that customers, prospects, buyers, or employees may suffer negative consequences for their responses. Even if you assure survey respondents that their answers will not be connected to their identity, public trust in the true anonymity of anything these days is understandably low.

Confidentiality becomes an even larger concern when you want to gather qualitative data by speaking directly with your stakeholders. Whether you conduct one-on-one interviews or focus groups, the participants’ identities will be made known to the researcher. This is why, when you want to create an atmosphere that encourages your participants to be painfully honest, it’s vital to contract with an outside professional.

While there are many other ways to make the case for using an outside expert consulting firm, these three reasons alone should show how important using an experience professional is when the results truly matter.

Some companies balk at the cost of using a market research company, however when you consider the validity of the results and how much money could be spent and wasted taking actions based on inaccurate results, the investment in a consultant becomes the more cost-effective method versus doing it yourself.

To learn more about our philosophy, proven results, and how we can create a custom plan to meet your needs, contact us now.

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