June 2014
The DIY Guide to Online Marketing Research

Dear <<First Name>>,

More and more research is being carried out online and more people are trying it as a way of getting the information they need. But there are pitfalls that can trip you up and black holes you can fall into, if you don’t know what to avoid or how to plan your research properly.
This issue of our newsletter is full of advice to help you carry out effective online marketing research.

As an active and longstanding member of the Independent Consultants Group, a trade association of director-level market research professionals (see, we are especially pleased to give the ICG credit as the source of some of the ideas contained in this newsletter.

Happy reading!
Best wishes

Martin Holliss

t: +44 1235 812 456
m: +44 7931 376501


The DIY Guide to Online Marketing Research

One of the best ways to do your own research is by using online tools. There are four stages you can work through, to get the best from your DIY research.
Will your survey work online?
When you’re thinking about doing a survey yourself, remember that not all surveys are the same. Certain types of online survey work well for DIY research including:

  • Customer feedback on a buying experience
  • Feedback on a training event or exhibition
  • Employee surveys on a wide range of topics
  • Finding out how many people buy your product and what they think of it
  • Selecting the best date and venue for a meeting, conference or event (eg your Christmas party!).

If you’re looking at something more complicated, like market segmentation or pricing policy, or a sensitive subject, then an online survey is unlikely to be the best tool to use.
Write a really good questionnaire
In order to collect information that you can use, your questionnaire needs to ask questions that will be clearly understood. Questions should be easy to understand and unambiguous, must not be leading and should allow people to give clear, honest answers.
A badly written questionnaire will either result in vague responses that won’t answer your objectives or will give you unreliable data that would be highly dangerous to use. Click here for more tips on writing your questionnaire.
Some notes on sampling
How many people will you send your survey to? What sort of people are they? This is just as important as the questions you ask since, for the resulting data to be meaningful, you need responses from a representative sample of your target audience. You also need to make sure you get responses from people to whom the survey topic is relevant, to ensure you don’t collect data that is misleading or wrong.
As you’re writing your questionnaire, think about the type of person you need answers from. Then work out how you are going to reach them. Can you email them a link to your survey online? Do you have the right people on your email list? Is the list up to date, or should you use the phone? Will you post your survey on a website and if so, does that site have the right sort of people visiting it?
The validity of your research results depends on the number of people who take part and how well they represent the audience you are researching. Does your sample share the same characteristics as the population it represents? For example, if you send your questionnaire to 100 men and 100 women and get responses from 10 men and 50 women, then the results will not be representative. There are ways of getting around this problem (typically by weighting the data) but they are outside the scope of this short newsletter. Do ask us if you would like more details.
Robust results
So you’ve put time into writing a good questionnaire, getting it to the right people and collecting their responses. Now you have to think about how to use your findings. You will have the answers to open-ended and closed questions to analyse; you’ll have data tables to produce and interpret. Then there are details like how many decimal places you should use when reporting findings and how you handle and report averages.
Think about who will be using and acting on your findings – perhaps your manager or Board of Directors – what do they need to know? You’ll need to analyse the data so that conclusions are reliable and robust, and so that actions are clear.
Who, What, When, How and Why questions are a useful guide when you’re preparing your report. Who needs to know the results? What do they really want to know? When do they need the results? How will you present the results? Why was the research done?
Follow these four stages and consider all of them when you’re planning your online survey, especially the last one, and you’ll be able to design and carry out much more effective research that will give you information that will prove to be really useful.


Keeping it in the Family

Our Managing Director’s son (Tom Holliss) has co-developed an astonishingly-clever and flexible DIY online survey tool that you can use. Take a look at to see how it can help you, then email Tom at
To quote from the Zappistore website …
“Not sure what type of research you want? Not sure how to go about it? We make that simple. For years we’ve been building our knowledge and expertise and getting an intimate knowledge of the best thinking in market research. We’ve even won the odd award here and there. Now we want to share it all with you and open up this unique insight for, well, everyone. Do a test in the morning, have the answers from your (very many) future customers by the afternoon."

DIY Plus

Have you had a go at DIY marketing research and not quite achieved the results you were hoping for? Do you think that you might not be able to manage DIY research on your own?
At Research Insight we can support you while you conduct your own research, helping in a number of ways. We can spend time reviewing your survey design and questionnaire and making sure your process is robust. Alternatively, we can provide an independent summary of your results at the end research, to help you see what's really important.
If you would like low-key consultancy support while you do your DIY marketing research, then click here to get in touch or call us on 01235 812 456.

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