The Role of Market Research Firms in the Future

The Role of Market Research Firms in the Future

DIY Tools Increase Value of Research Professionals

I recently attended an American Marketing Association (AMA) power luncheon in Nashville. The topic for the day was the “new side of research”. For 60 minutes I listened to a panel of local thought leaders in Market Research share what they’re excited about in the industry and answer some tough questions from the crowd. As I sat there listening to question after question from Marketing/Branding folk I started to recognize an over-arching pattern. The majority of the questions weren’t about what’s exciting in the industry but rather “how can I do research myself (with little to no budget)?”

My first reaction was that maybe the people asking these questions come from small organizations/start-ups that don’t have any budget for a full-fledged research project. But then I continued to see the same type of question asked from people I know have the budget and have worked with research companies in the past. Almost everyone who asked a question around Do-It-Yourself (DIY) research brought up commonly used free or low-cost research tools like Survey Monkey.

Anytime you say the words “Survey Monkey” around a traditional research crowd, prepare to be “taken to the woodshed”.

”As DIY Research tools become more advanced, will “traditional” research companies still exist?”

I did my best not to shun these questions and look at them without bias. I then asked myself a scary question….”As DIY Research tools become more advanced, will “traditional” research companies still exist?”

As I pondered this question, one of the speakers answered this concern 15 different times, while basically making the same point. She said, “DIY tools are great but the key is making sure you understand the business question and wrap the right research methodology around it.”

The speaker continued to expand on her point by talking about the risks of not adhering to an experienced research professional when creating the framework of the research project. Research is, and has always been, a ‘garbage in garbage out’ exercise. A lousy research framework will produce lousy or inaccurate results. Inaccurate research is actually the worst because it can lead you down the wrong path.

So then, what is the future of “traditional” market research firms? I’d say it leans more towards consulting rather than execution. With the rise of the free information grid (aka the web), people expect things for free. Don’t believe me? Go ask any (former) musician. Market Research tools and technology have the same forces pressing against it. The game is changing and we would be wise not to ignore the inevitable.

While this may sound like a depressing end-game, I believe it actually increases the value of knowledgeable Market Research professionals.

This article originally was published on The Market Research Event blog.

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