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Who Are DIY Marketing Researchers?

Who Are DIY Marketing Researchers?

Brooke Reavey and Sheri Lambert

various tools

A closer look at the do-it-yourself marketing research segment and predominant trends within

The question of who is conducting marketing research tasks has evolved over the past 80 years. For decades, marketing research experts who were carefully trained in sampling, survey design, data collection and analysis worked in marketing research firms (i.e., vendor-side marketing researchers such as Ipsos and Kantar) and were the ones who actually did the research. These trained researchers often had specialized marketing research degrees or advanced training in statistics. The marketing research firms were hired by clients (i.e., traditional clients such as Kellogg’s or Northwestern Mutual). The marketing research firms would design the study, collect and analyze the data, then provide managerial recommendations to the client in an effort to improve their products or services. This process could take weeks or months and was understandably frustrating for the clients who were waiting with bated breath for answers.

As digital marketing emerged, so too did the emergence of DIY marketing research platforms (i.e., SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, etc.). Thus, the experts at marketing research firms were no longer the majority conducting marketing research projects. However, as the DIY segment grows, not much is known about them. Thus, we were curious who exactly is conducting marketing research on DIY platforms. Is it a marketing research department that decided to conduct all research in-house? A lone marketing manager who runs a one-man show? What else do they do in addition to marketing research?

Learn more about the rise of the DIY marketing researcher in our webinar, “The New Modern Marketing Researcher: The DIY Platform User,” June 4, 2021 at 12 p.m. CST. Click here to register.

According to the AMA report, “Measuring the Transformation of Insights and Analytics,” the U.S. marketing research industry was estimated at $47 billion in 2019, with an 8% growth rate from 2018 to 2019. Despite the pandemic, the industry is continuing to grow quickly. Additionally, over the past decade or so, the marketing research industry has welcomed numerous new segments for which to serve: text analytics, data mining and social listening communities. According to the AMA’s 2016 Gold Report, because survey platforms are widely available and easy to use, small and medium-sized businesses, along with nonprofit organizations and educational institutions, are now designing and conducting surveys themselves using DIY platforms. But what do these businesses do? What is the MR training for these DIYers?

Composition of the DIY Segment

Understanding the needs and wants of consumers—and then acting on these insights—is the core of the marketing concept. By evaluating the environment, defining the marketing problem, identifying the proper methodology (qual vs. quant), collecting data, analyzing data, providing managerial recommendation and most importantly implementing the needs, firms are able to adjust to market demand. Thus, marketing research process helps ensure that the feedback loop in a market-oriented company is closed.

Marketing Research Process
The Marketing Research Process, whose key step is implementation of recommended changes.

It should come as no surprise then that the marketing research industry is continuing to grow year over year, despite the democratization of the marketing research function because there are so many sophisticated and inexpensive ways to collect and analyze data due to DIY platforms.

The DIY segment emerged just like any other industry—there was a need that customers had and several firms that filled that need. Customers wanted an inexpensive solution for writing and distributing surveys, and they wanted fast turnaround for their answers. Previously, when working with the big traditional research firms, there was a lag—often weeks or months—between asking the research question and receiving the answer. Additionally, the costs of working with a big firm excluded many organizations from conducting their research because the overhead costs of these surveys was often prohibitive.


Once the technology to write, program, distribute and analyze these surveys emerged on a cost effective platform, many organizations began conducting their own research—or moved the research “in-house” as it is frequently referred. However, as noted in “Measuring the Transformation of Insights and Analytics,” the DIY segment is growing in addition to the entire marketing research industry. The DIY segment now extends beyond survey platforms and includes programs such as Tableau to assist with data visualization, Hubspot to assist with various marketing communications activities, and Mention to assist with social listening.

So who are these DIYers? What do they do?

Surprisingly, we discovered that most DIYers are digital marketers or those who work in marketing communications. They often wear many hats while in the marketing role and launch surveys a few times a year. Most often, they conduct competitive research, write surveys, participate in social media listening, customer satisfaction studies and customer journey mapping. Generally, most of the DIYers’ organization does not have an official marketing research department and those that do, typically only have 1-5 people in that department. 

Did the Pandemic Influence a Change in the Number of DIYers?

We were also curious regarding motivations for using DIY platforms. Did budget cuts force firms to shift in-house, thus increasing the number of DIYers? We discovered that the majority of DIYers stated that their budgets often stayed the same, while the number of projects increased.  

What Makes DIY Users Different Than MR Vendors and Traditional Clients?

The major differences between DIYers versus MR vendors and Traditional clients boils down to their job responsibilities.

In the multi-select question listed in the graph above, DIYers were much more likely to select many categories, whereas vendors and traditional clients selected fewer. This suggests that DIYers are more likely to be generalized marketers—your typical marketing manager—whereas MR vendors and traditional clients are more often specialized in their roles and responsibilities.

In terms of experience and training, MR vendors had the most experience and training in comparison to traditional clients and DIYers. MR vendors most often report that they had more than 21 years of experience in marketing research, whereas traditional clients reported 1-3 years and DIYers reported 4-10 years. MR vendors also reported that they had the most specialized training and were the most likely to report that they had master’s degrees in marketing research, certificates in marketing research and were also the most likely to report that they had on-the-job-training, and that they took marketing research courses as undergraduates and as MBA students. Conversely, both traditional clients and DIYers most often received their training through undergraduate marketing research courses as well as on-the-job-training.

What does all of this mean for the marketing research industry? Much like Maslow’s hammer, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Full-service marketing research vendors will continue to dominate the industry and with that they will continue to innovate for the rest of the industry. However, most DIYers do have some work experience (roughly 4-10 years) and as more firms catch onto agile marketing techniques, it is probable that the DIY market will continue to grow as more people continue to familiarize themselves with DIY platforms.

The study consisted of an online survey of 520 marketers in the U.S. and abroad and used the AMA list-serve as its sample. It was fielded in January 2021 by researchers at Dominican University and Temple University. As an incentive to increase participation, there was a drawing for 10 $50 Amazon gift cards. The webinar on this topic, “The New Modern Marketing Researcher: The DIY Platform User” will be held on June 4, 2021 at 12 p.m. CDT. Questions to the researchers are welcomed. Please click here to register.

Brooke Reavey, PhD, is an assistant professor of marketing in the Brennan School Business at Dominican University.

Sheri L. Lambert is an assistant professor of marketing in the Fox School of Business at Temple University. She is also the academic director of Temple’s MS Market Research and Insights (MSMR) program and leads the MSMR Industry Advisory Board.