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 curi