With cost-cutting exercises being a reality for the majority of companies out there, it may seem an attractive prospect to cut out the external research provider budget and scrap the supplier list for your own internal research department.
However, it's important not to fall into the trap of marking your own homework. By this we mean that while internal market research may seem like a more convenient, cost-effective solution, you may run the risk of jeopardising your own insights and by extension the growth of your organisation. Problem #1:
An internal research department is still part of your company which means that they are privy to the same information and understanding about your business and its products as all your other employees. This mentality means that research is approached from a preformed idea of the outcome rather than a neutral starting point.
This can also end up leading the design of surveys and other research methodologies, which means that even if you are finding insights that support your strategic direction, it doesn't necessarily mean you're on the right path. Problem #2:
There is a difference between business objectives and research objectives - this difference can become blurred if the party conducting your research has a stake in both. As an external research provider it is still a task to deliver insights and findings that may contradict or undermine business objectives but it has to be done.
However, this isn't so easily done when you're researching yourself. For this reason, research will often be presented to reflect the positives, or key insights will be cherry picked to substantiate a particular business case rather than reflecting the whole picture.
Think about tastefully cropping that profile picture on Facebook to show off your good side, it's still 100% you but is it an accurate representation? Problem #3:
Sometimes perspective can be the difference between a good idea and a bad one.
The best way to eliminate business risk and know for sure though, is through careful inspection of a decision or direction from multiple perspectives. However, when you are conducting all your research internally, a perspective paralysis can set in. If you only look at your company through an internal microscope, the chances are you'll see everything in relation to your position rather than that of the customer.
Nobody is really able to be 100% honest and introspective with themselves, and organisations are no different. We start to create blind spots and overlook areas for improvement by only curating positive insights that are supported by the beliefs and budgets of our organisations. The bottom line:
This isn't to say that internal research is doomed, but rather that balance is the name of the game.
In order to avoid running into the problems above, or wasting your time and effort on inaccurate research, try the following:
- Vary your research suppliers, getting your best friend to mark your homework can be just as bad as marking your own. It's also important to utilise the strengths and expertise of your various supplies.
- Have an even mix of external and internally conducting research to get a multi-perspective view, which will help inform better strategic decision making.
Most importantly be mindful of the role of research in shaping the decisions your organisation makes, rather than the other way around.