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I just came across this site the other day, AskYourTargetMarket.com – it’s basically a one-stop shop for companies looking to do small-scale market research. You can set the parameters of your target demographic, create a simple survey, and get results from their panelists within a couple hours to a couple days. I know there are other sites out there like this, but I was really impressed by AskYourTargetMarket’s simplicity and fair prices. And I couldn’t help being charmed by their cutesy tag line – “Serious Market Research at silly prices.”

And before you ask, no, I am in no way affiliated with or being compensated by this company. I just thought it was a cool business model and it got me thinking….

As a company who deals with researchers, it’s interesting to see how the market is changing as technology becomes cheaper and data becomes more readily available. Are we at the end of the era when elite market research firms hold all the cards in market research? Are we losing anything by making technology and data more accessible? Are we dumbing down market research by making it affordable to almost anyone?

In answer to those questions, I’d say yes, sort of. I do think that the affordability and availability of feedback and data collection tools has created a bit of a monster, to some extent. It’s somehow given businesses (even Fortune 500 companies) permission to be sloppy. I can’t tell you how many poorly written, horrible looking surveys I get from companies that I would have expected a lot more from. It’s like there’s this attitude of “This product was cheap so it’s not worth me putting in a lot of time to produce something of high quality.”

That being said, I do think we’re moving in the right direction with regards to the ‘opening up’ of data, overall. It’s pretty thrilling to think about the technology we have for data collection, the social platforms we have to help us collect that data, and the possibilities of what we can do with that information. Then there’s the integration options – you can get an API for almost anything these days. I’m really excited to be part of an industry that’s giving almost universal access to information that was previously coveted by an elite few.

That’s my two sense – I’d love to get the conversation going on this topic. Should market research be left to the experts? Are we sacrificing quality for quantity by conducting more frequent, less formal surveys? Where is the research industry headed and how is social media going to continue to play a part?

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Comment by Anna Barcelos on September 2, 2010 at 10:55am
Hi Carolyn:

That is a really neat site, and I just bookmarked it! I agree with your points. Traditional market research firms need to accept the fact that there are more cost-effective, faster, and easier ways to do research, and folks will gravitate towards them more and more. Having a marketing services background, I see clients calling out data and market research companies more and more for better quality work. Yay for companies like AskYourTargetMarket.

At the same time, market research firms need to innovate, relinquish this illusion of "control" over data and knowledge, and be more client-centric to produce work to their standards. I'm not saying there aren't good research firms out there. Have to add this disclaimer ;-)

Nice post!
Comment by Jason Kitayama on September 1, 2010 at 12:19pm
Carolyn,

Good points, and thanks for introducing that website. Interestingly, I think that site is a glowing example of MR taking a step back in the eyes of clients. Two elements working here:

1) Your data are only as good as your respondents. I worry about overuse of these 'ready-made' panels and the criteria that these companies use to screen them. Once I held a series of focus groups for patients and physicians for a particular medical therapy. I asked the patients their interest in the therapy, and one said, "Yes, I would pursue this...as long as I get paid for it." Obviously, you need to trust your recruiting source.

2) Your data are only as good as the questions you pose. I think this is what the "experts" are there for. In many industries in which I've had the pleasure of working, MR has become a 'validation tool' rather than a true test of customer perceptions, so ask some pretty foolish question resulting in bad answers. Example: an employee satisfaction survey that I recently asked perceptions of a newly merged company. One of the response choices was “Company X is no longer for me”. How many people answered this? I’d like to see the data, please…

Combining these two points leads to the age-old question: What's the difference between posing leading questions to strangers, and asking your known loyal customer if s/he is interested in the product? Nothing. My impression from this side of the coin is “apprehensive” due to high frequency of low quality.

On the flipside - social networking, and sites like the one you have pointed out (and others like "business-influencers.com") are helping individuals become more comfortable with participating in market research. Broadening the respondent pool is a great thing that will help marketers find broader demographic criteria, which will offer more creative and more effective segmentation. This will require the ‘experts’ to have their $#%$ together, be creative and compete on the ability to optimize these insights gained from these respondents. I know that these changes are prompting me to consider launching some studies for fun.

All in all, the technology is advancing the ball, and removes a large part of the cost barrier - I think clients need to remember that there are larger barriers to GOOD MR than cost.

jk

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