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DIY market research: 8 tips from the experts

DIY market research: 8 tips from the experts

Starting off in market research?

Scary stat: 95% of product launches fail. Yet, according to Nielsen, 63% of consumers say they like when new products are offered. So how do you tap into that majority of enthusiastic consumers without falling into the shadow of the 5%?

It’s hard to design for “the public” without knowing what your potential customers really want. What features do they care about? What messages do they respond to? Getting feedback early and often keeps you from investing time and effort in the wrong things and keeps you solidly out of the 5%.

At SurveyMonkey, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this type of feedback. Our experts created an Ultimate guide to market research–an end-to-end center of knowledge for everything you need to know when it comes to measuring, weighing, and acting on perspectives in the market.

On top of the guide (and in the spirit of asking the market for feedback) we’ve asked some of the great minds in market research to give us their top pieces of advice for those who are just getting started. Our prompt: what are the biggest mistakes to avoid in market research?

Our Ultimate guide to market research tells you everything you need to know, at every step.

One thing that came up repeatedly in our responses was the importance of grounding yourself in your goals before you even start researching. You might be tempted to ask aimlessly first in order to “map the landscape”, but according to our experts, that’s not the best strategy.

Steve Levine, market research consultant and public speaker

Steve Levine

‘’Prep before you jump in...when a project starts right it will likely end successfully. When a project gets off to a poor start it has less chance of getting back on track.

Prep means defining objectives and determining how to best meet those objectives. Merely throwing questions out on the internet does not meet that end. Instead, take a step back and put thought into why you are conducting a marketing research project. Once you have answered that question, you will be empowered to design a meaningful questionnaire that will contribute to more informed decisions.’’

Erika Heald, startup content strategist. #ContentChat host

Erika Heald

‘’The biggest mistake I see people make in conducting their own DIY research is jumping right into their research project without, first, talking to internal SMEs and their customers. As a marketer, you can start to feel as though you can act as a proxy for your customers, and know what their biggest struggles are and how your product or service solves it for them. But, when you start your research project off with these critical conversations, you often uncover entirely new topics and questions you need to include in your research and discover the language your audience uses to talk about those topics.’’

Jake Pryszlak, market research columnist and speaker 🔖 Host #MRxChat

Jake Pryszlak

If you are not a seasoned market researcher you might you might want to seek some advice! DIY can be a money saver as long as it doesn’t cause you to compromise on other areas of your business. Do the steps that you are comfortable with DIY and ask for expert help with the remainder. It will pay dividends and you will learn the best practices from the start!’’

Zontziry Johnson, market research educator– Insights specialists


‘’Be super crisp on what the business question is. Make sure it's a *single* question. That should remain your north star for deciding everything about the research: methodology, audience, questions, etc. It all goes back to that initial business question.’’

Other experts focused on the actual survey creation phase.

Ray Poynter, consultant & founder at #NewMR

Ray Poytner

‘’I think the most important thing is for people to read some literature on the basics of questions. Asking questions which are complete, not biased, and easy for people to answer.’’

Hint: Our guide is a great place to start. ;)

Katie Clark, market research consultant–Voice of the Customer specialist

Katie Clarke

‘’Writing a questionnaire is not as easy as it looks. The words you use matter, as does the flow of questions. A poorly designed questionnaire is a waste of time, both for the DIY-er, their business, and those taking the survey. It's worth investing time up front to get this part right.

Respect the respondent. Test the heck out of your survey from their perspective. Have coworkers test it too. Do you think it's too long? Too wordy? Too academic sounding? Your respondent will too. Respect their time and efforts in completing the survey by making it a great survey to take.’’

As Katie pointed out, testing is the best way to verify your results, and other experts were quick to agree that testing can help improve accuracy...but also give you a little more flexibility.

Julie Kurd, market strategy & research consultant

Julie K

‘’Do a dry run of your questions with a few people from different backgrounds, ages, gender, geographies. Just to make sure your questions make sense to people...often this is a good way to learn, “what you don’t know that you don’t know.”

Jamin Brazil, market research consultant–host of the ‘’Happy Market Research’’ Podcast


‘’The biggest mistake to avoid when getting started is seeking perfection with your first survey! Customer centricity is a muscle...it’ll get stronger with action.’’

It’s easy to make mistakes in the early life of a product, brand, or campaign, but asking the right questions gives you an edge early on–as any expert can tell you.

Our Ultimate guide to market research teaches you everything you need to know, each step of the way.