Power to the People

I draw your attention this morning to an article recently written for MRWeb by our own senior contributor, Andrew Jeavons. The article, entitled “Power to the People” was written in response to Jerome Sopocko’s recent article in the same publication, “Man Up! The Trojans are at the Gate.”

The debate – a long-standing one, but taken up this past week by Andrew and Jerome – centers around the role of Do It Yourself (DIY) tools in market research. Jerome argues that DIY survey tools pose a threat to the market research industry by “dumbing down” research instruments and leading those using DIY survey tools to believe that the data they gather is equal to the results of professionally conducted market research. Andrew counters that DIY exists because there’s a demand for it, and we, as market researchers, can either reposition ourselves to offer value or be left behind.

So who is right?

Heck if I know! This is one of the most complex debates that the market research industry will face in a generation. It represents a choice between two fundamentally different directions, how we respond, and our role as an industry in the future. Truth be told, and perhaps this is a cop-out… I see both sides. I understand Jerome’s point that – beyond self-preservation – there is sophistication and years of training that goes into executing high-quality market research.

But I understand Andrew’s points as well: that the democratization of connecting with constituents and gathering data opens doors to those who, in the past, couldn’t afford to hire researchers. Andrew’s point that the MR industry is capable of adapting, and continuing to offer value, is also well taken.

I’d really love to know your thoughts here. Check out Jerome Sopocko’s article, “Man Up! The Trojans are at the Gate” as well as Andrew Jeavons, “Power to the People,” and take just a minute to share your thoughts on this critical debate. What is the role of DIY research in the MR industry in the years to come?

About Joshua Hoffman

Joshua Hoffman is Technology Specialist at Microsoft and a frequent contributor to Research Access.


  1. I say: embrace it! We’re not going to stop it and besides, isn’t it cool that so many people want to do market research? Of course, this does mean there is a real–even urgent–need for training and policies. I have some suggestions in these articles:



    And this is an article that appeared in the MRA’s Alert magazine: http://www.mra-net.org/perspective/index.cfm?blogId=54

  2. Thanks, Kathryn! These are great additional resources.

  3. As a quallie, I am well aware that lots of people think what i do looks not just easy, but dead simple. Relatively few clients want to do their own, although some do. The usual reason appears to be cost, from what I can see, as recruiting is no faster or slower for them or me.

    I find client’s analysis of qualitative is usually of the fast kind — first impressions. If they did more analysis, many of them could come up with what i come up with.

    The real issue for me is more one of raw capability. People who have the capability to do from an analysis perspective what I do certainly exist inside client companies, but they are typically senior managers and executives, and are primarily in a managerial or strategic role. If client companies were prepared to hire people at a senior level to do this work, they could likely obtain great results.

    A couple of other things are often missing when clients DIY on qualitative. The longer the person is in the job, the less breadth of exposure they get, the less ability to bring in contextual learning from a broad base of clientele.

    For some methodologies, it could be difficult to get people to tell you the unvarnished truth — i say this because even as an independent, I (and my colleagues) often have to go to some lengths to assure people of true anonymity in their feedback. I struggle to see how this could be done by an employee.

    I also — as do many consultants — spend a truly massive amount of time and money on my professional development every year. I attend conferences, I speak at conferences, I attend training events of various sorts, I participate in several professional organizations, I read widely.

    My clients, on the other hand, are as busy as small mammals, scurrying on their wheel, often without the time to really think about anything in depth. Their voicemail says they are “in a series of meetings”, and that menu rarely seems to change. Of course they have access to learning opportunities, but most are mandated by the company, not chosen by themselves for what they bring.

    Even large research organizations have relatively few qualitative people involved in the world outside the corporation, which I would guess to be for cost containment reasons. They send one person to a conference with the idea that they will share the learning.

    There is a lot to be said for people who strive to invent new things every year to compete. If I worked inside the client organization, I might not feel the same level of pressure to keep up and be inventive to get ahead. It would be easy to fall into patterns. As it stands now, I am constantly trying to figure out how to either add more value, or ratchet down the third party costs somehow.

    Finally, I think the cost argument is upside down where qualitative is concerned. The senior people in qualitative would be prohibitively expensive to hire on a full-time basis, with the benefits and associated overhead. Just think of the lost productivity in meetings alone!

    It is great to see the tools getting better to do technology-supported qualitative. I love it. I hope that the price drops, as surely it must if DIY is going to take off. Because feature-creep in online research has led to price creep, when it should be going the other way.

    Some of the things raised in this article and others are relevant to the qualitative world as well.
    * I wish that I could have more access to the learning from the CRM system when i am in the planning or reporting stages. I think clients themselves are struggling to integrate and effectively use all their many sources of data.
    * I wish for better long-term collaboration. The best do it, the rest should.
    * I wish for better semantic analysis tools — not to replace me, but to make the work faster and cheaper.

    But the good news in all of this is that clients want and need insights. And they don’t want to pay 24 carat prices for fool’s gold. And that’s a good thing for those who can embrace the new reality.

  4. Market Researchers are increasingly using low-cost DIY mobile survey tools to gather consumer insights using iOS (iPhone, iPod and iPad), smartphones and the new Android tablets. Using products like SURVEY ON THE SPOT (disclosure: our product) as well as other mobile survey services enables both market research professionals as well as other people that have no market research expertise to collect information from their guests, clients, meeting attendees, and other consumers.

    What is interesting of late is the speed from seeing a need to collecting information. A Fortune 100 company identified a need on a Friday and was live on an iPad at a convention on Monday morning! All for $60 plus the cost of an iPad. They were able to have actionable research with less than an hour spent creating the survey.


    Now… that’s power to the people! Now anyone can conduct DIY research at a cost $40 per month. Best of all, most of these DIY tools offer a free trial to enable live use without any cost!

    Geoff Palmer
    Twitter: #surveyonthespot


  1. […] article is reprinted with the Author’s permission and was originally published on MRWeb and ResearchAccess About the Author Andrew Jeavons:Andrew has worked in the survey software and market research […]

Speak Your Mind