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How SMEs can avoid common market research mistakes

How SMEs can avoid common market research mistakes

Keeping?your market research in-house may seem like the most cost-effective thing to do. But by sidestepping industry experts and conducting DIY research, you could be putting your business at risk. Luckily national market research experts Explain Market Research have compiled the main pitfalls when it comes to market research, and how to avoid them.

Ethical obligations

Businesses all have their own ethical obligations and any audience research should be treated carefully; companies can, and have, been faced with public backlash if their market research practices are perceived as unethical.

Market research can be deemed unethical if it is considered to be an invasion of privacy, breach customer confidentiality or be unobjective. Most research agencies are members of the Market Research Society (MRS) and will adhere to their standards which are put in place to ensure research is delivered to the highest standards and ethical practices.


Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), there are 6 lawful bases that can be used to legally collect personal data. GDPR established clear directions and principles on the collection of management of personal data for research purposes, non-adherence and breaches to GDPR can lead to significant fine and penalties.

You should always seek expert guidance before conducting any research that uses personal data, which includes B2B research.


Bias is an important factor to consider when it comes to deciding whether to conduct research in-house or to outsource it to a specialist agency. If research is conducted in-house, bias can act as a variable in affecting respondents” openness to questions during fieldwork, and the quality of outputs from analysis.

Research that is conducted, analysed and delivered independently, ultimately reduces bias which can be commonplace when managed internally.

Likewise, if you have spent years in your industry you may think you know your customers inside out, but remember you carry plenty of baggage and preconceived notions about your service users. Letting these preconceptions cloud your judgement could lead you to misinterpret data, ask leading questions or analyse information to support your preconceptions. Don?t make assumptions and you will get a much more accurate interpretation.

Time wasting

Your time is precious and carrying out the wrong research, conducting unnecessary research or misinterpreting data can all damage the credibility of your study, produce unusable results and waste valuable resource. DIY market research can be very time consuming as the administration and logistics that are required for quality, meaningful research must be carefully thought through.

Lacking specialist skills

Having a go is all well and good, but if your market research is going to have a direct impact on a policy decision or be used to underpin company strategy, your results need to be robust. Aside from the right skills, experience and resource factors, market research specialists will have specialist skills in the core areas of designing, delivering and analysing research projects.

In addition to this, they will adhere to extensive industry guidelines which are put in place to ensure that research is delivered to the highest standard, concerning ethical practice, commercial value and reliability.

Designing the research program

Designing and unpicking the research project to deliver actionable insights takes skill and experience. A blanket, or one size fits all approach or methodology, although easier to manage will leave your results with insight gaps and may even lead to misleading results.

It’s important to spend time fully scoping out your research project understanding your budget, approach, respondent profile and then applying the most appropriate methodology to ensure your results deliver value.

Staying ahead of the curve

Market research as a sector is constantly evolving, innovating and changing. There is a place for historic research methodologies but if you aren?t undertaking research on a daily basis it’s likely you?ll be behind the curve and missing out on new areas of development like gamification, online communities, online dashboarding, mobile app surveys and engaging with hard to reach respondents no name but a few!

Kim Davis is managing director at Explain Market Research.


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