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Do it Yourself Primary Research for Marketers

Updated: Nov 27, 2018

DIY primary research for marketers

This blog was inspired from a session “How to Conduct Your Own Fast, Affordable Consumer Research”* presented at “SHSMD Connections 18,” an annual healthcare marketing conference. It is applicable however to marketers in other industries.

Pinterest, YouTube and blogs have made it possible for us to move from “I don’t know how, better call someone” to “Let me find a video to learn how”. Now we are all DIY’ing everything in our personal lives from painting a room to repairing the dryer to making a kids Halloween costume. And with some success.

DIY is not just for home repairs and hobbies though. There are certain projects we as marketers and business owners can confidently tackle ourselves - primary research is one – in certain situations, however.

Primary research, research that is not already available, in invaluable for making marketing and communication decisions. Understanding what others believe about your brand before re-branding; deciding whether or not to implement a new program; knowing why employees choose to work at your company for recruitment messaging - are just a few examples of when we need to ask our own questions.

The options for primary research are hire a specialized firm or do it ourselves. But how do you know which is right for your situation?

When to Consider DIY Primary Research

  • You need the information next week

  • There’s no or little budget

  • You know what you want to ask

  • You have respondents willing to participate (or can purchase)

  • You have the tools to implement and manage a survey

  • Sophisticated analysis and reporting is not needed

Sometimes You Need to Hire a Research Professional, But When?

  • Your research will help support a decision for a major investment or company strategy decision

  • Your audience is large or high level

  • Your audience is narrow and external

  • You need sophisticated analysis and reporting

If your research project qualifies for DIY, here’s how to get started.

woman doing DIY research through online survey

The Situation

Let’s pretend we work in the marketing department of a hospital and soon it will be time to reprint the baby booklets/pregnancy guides that the OB/GYNs distribute to their patients who are expecting. Due to the number of pages, they are somewhat expensive to print. The hospital service line manager said there’s no need, the moms-to-be don’t seem to want them anymore. The physicians’ office manager however says the physicians want to continue to distribute them. What’s marketing to do? Primary DIY research, of course.

Step 1: Determine your hypothesis

In this situation, our hypothesis might be: Do expecting moms want pregnancy guides/baby booklets from their OB/GYN? If yes, what content is most valuable and what is least valuable to our audience?

Step 2: Determine the audience

In this example, our target audience might be women within a 100 mile radius who have had a full term pregnancy and delivery in the past 24 months. Hint: be prepared to increase or decrease the parameters to ensure enough respondents.

Step 3: Determine how will you use what you learn

For our scenario, we will use the results to decide whether or not to re-print baby booklets/pregnancy guides and if so, based on respondent preferences, evaluate if the content needs changing.

Step 4: Understand ahead of time who in your organization will receive the survey results and what kind of reporting will they require.

In this example, marketing will need to share a summary of the results as well as charts and recommendation with the office manager, physicians and service line manager. A simple one page summary with supporting details attached should be sufficient. Note: the simpler the questionnaire, the simpler the analysis and reporting.

Step 5: Determine what survey tools should be used

Sources are available to help you manage your primary research survey from start to finish including developing your questionnaire, finding respondents, distributing your survey, analyzing the results and reporting the findings. Qualtrics, ZOHO, Poll Daddy and Survey Monkey are a few options with Survey Monkey being a popular one. At TotalCom Marketing we have used Survey Monkey and find it user friendly for both researcher and respondents.

Step 6: Develop your survey and questions

Tips for using Survey Monkey can be a series of blog posts unto themselves. Below are some best practices. Some are from the presentation at SHSMD Connections, some from Survey Monkey and some from my personal experience at TotalCom Marketing.

  • Utilize the questionnaire templates and customize based on your needs

  • Write the questions using the language and definitions that your audience uses

  • Create questions that are to the point and easy to understand

  • Each question should ask only one question (no shotgun approach)

  • Group like questions together

  • Do not be biased or leading with your questions

  • Make no assumptions

  • Don’t let curiosity get the better of you. Avoid asking other questions “just because we would like to know”

  • Keep your survey as short and brief as possible

  • Ask the easiest-to-answer, least invasive, less personal questions in the beginning

  • Avoid yes-no questions

  • Avoid open-ended questions (difficult when it comes time to tally results)

  • Use words, not numbers (e.g., use phrases such as “more likely” and “less likely” rather than “on a scale of 1 to 10”)

  • Let respondents know why you need this information and how you will use it

  • Let respondents know how many questions or how much time the questionnaire will require of their time

  • Ask respondents for their help with the decision you are trying to make – people like to help others

  • Custom brand your survey with your logo, colors, etc. Respondents feel more comfortable when they know where the survey came from and will be more likely to answer your questions. (Note however sometimes it is more appropriate for the survey to come from a third party)

  • Don’t have a CRM of potential respondents? No problem, you can purchase a targeted audience from Survey Monkey based on geography and many demographic and psychographic characteristics. Learn more about purchasing respondents here.

  • Proof and edit your survey. Proof and edit your survey. Proof and edit your survey again.

  • Test your survey with others in your department, co-workers and peers and ask for feedback.

Sample questions

To continue with our example of the baby booklets/pregnancy guides, some sample survey questions might include: (Note these are just sample questions for illustration purposes).

1. Have you had a full term pregnancy and delivery in the past 24 months? (Note: This question is a filter to narrow down our target audience. If the answer is no, then we politely thank the participant for their time)



2. When you were expecting did your OB/GYN or hospital give you booklet or guide about your pregnancy? The guide may or may not have contained information such as about what to expect during your pregnancy, how to care for yourself while you are expecting, post-partum care, etc. (Note: This is another filter question that allows us to survey only those that are in our target audience. If the answer is no then we politely thank the participant and discontinue the survey)



3. How would you rate the overall value of the booklet as it related to your pregnancy?

No value

Some value

Very valuable

Extremely valuable

4. How often did you refer to the booklet during the course of your pregnancy and post-partum recovery?


1 – 2 times

3 – 4 times

5 or more times

Content: Think back to the content in your pregnancy booklet (Note: See how we grouped like questions?)

5. How helpful did you find the section “When to Call Your Doctor During Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet

Little or no help

Somewhat helpful

Very helpful

6. How helpful did you find the section “Important Phone Numbers During Your Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet

Little or no help

Somewhat helpful

Very helpful

7. How helpful did you find the section “Food and Activities to Avoid During Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet

Little or no help

Somewhat helpful

Very helpful

8. How helpful did you find the section in your booklet “Post-partum Care”

Information was not in my booklet

Little or no help

Somewhat helpful

Very helpful

Step 7: Send out survey - but you don’t have to necessarily wait

In Survey Monkey you can actually monitor the status of your survey project in real time to see how many responses you have and as your results come in, you can get a view of the responses.

Step 8: Analyze and report

Let the fun begin! Sometimes the results are a surprise and sometimes they confirm what we as marketers already know. In Survey Monkey you can view summaries of each survey question or drill down and browse individual survey responses. You can even use their “Rules” tool to filter and compare the results for more specific answers such as respondents from within a certain zip code or age. With a paid Survey Monkey plan you can download and export your survey results, choose from different chart types (pie, bar graph, line graph, etc) or even create your own charts. The results including the summary, chart and details are easy to import into your report or can be emailed.

Other ways primary research can be beneficial

Information gathered in primary research can be beneficial to healthcare marketers for obvious reasons. We can get answers to questions related to perceptions of our company’s products or services and then use the data to make decisions that are rooted in fact rather than opinion. In addition, we can often use the information again in the future as we have a better understanding of our audiences and what is relevant to them. Also important, primary research can help elevate the roll of marketing from executional to strategic.

In summary, there are times when primary research is needed but we do not have the luxury of getting outside help. Sometimes we have to do it ourselves – and we can.

Need help getting started with DIY primary research for your organization? Contact me, Lori Moore, Senior Account Manager for TotalCom Marketing Communications by email or phone at 205.345.7363.

* The presentation at SHSMD Connections 18 was given by Camille Baxter, Chief Business Development Officer, Insight Medical Genetics; Megan Springmeyer, Director of Client Development, Cint and Roger Straus, The Blackstone Group.

is primary research right for my organization infographic

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