Guide versus DIY

Written by Scott Spry, Chief Operating Officer

Would you try to climb Mt. Everest without a guide?  If you’re a great climber you certainly could make the attempt.  But out of 4,469 climbers (half were the guides) at the end of 2016 to reach the summit only two did so solo.

Why?  So they didn’t make a major mistake and pay for it dearly!

Research is now facing the same dilemma— use a full-service firm as your expert guide or “do it yourself” (DIY)?  The right answer depends on the situation.

The major question you need to answer is what kind of decisions will be made based on the findings?

If the company will be making a major investment, potential brand impacting, or strategic decisions the results must be accurate. One mistake in the findings could result in a very costly mistake to both you as the researcher and the company itself.

DIY has its place.  Looking for quick directional information?  Need insights to help you along in the process of building out a plan?  Not very concerned with the accuracy of the respondents taking the survey? Are you ok with biased answers to questions not properly worded and asked?  Comfortable defending your findings when they go against the “expected” answers of management?  Have little or no budget? Then give it a try.

But like an attempt on Everest, a lot can go wrong doing it yourself.

Experts in research, like guides, rely on extensive training and experience.  They’ve seen it all and they’ve been there before.  They have the best tools and know the most successful route. Along with all the traps to avoid.  Their goal is your success.

What beyond expertise and experience do full-service research firms add that can’t be accomplished with DIY tools?

  • Avoiding bias and pressures to produce favorable or expected results.
  • Getting unbiased answers as a third party that people are often reluctant to provide directly to a sponsoring company.
  • Asking and ordering questions in ways that provide an accurate and unbiased representation of the marketplace.
  • Applying rigid statistical techniques to determine the accurate significance of the findings.
  • Recruiting and validating that the survey respondents are truly who they say they are.
  • Utilizing the most efficient and accurate toolsets and people in executing and delivering the assignment.
  • Leveraging industry knowledge of your company – and your competitors.
  • Access to historical, normative and competitive data which can further enhance the findings.
  • Freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your job, trusting that you’ll have the answers needed on schedule.
  • And, regardless of the outcome – it is a third party, not you, that will explain the results to upper management.

After all, the incremental investments made using a full-service research expert is small in relation to the cost of making bad decisions based on faulty research.  Consider your needs and the options available.  Then reflect one more time on the ramifications of “going solo”.

Like the climbers of Everest, knowing when to fall back is just as important as moving ahead.

Better results mean better decisions.


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