When should companies do their own research, and when should they leave it to the pros?

This is a common question and fortunately, there is a pretty simple three-step litmus test that can answer this for you. Basically, you can do some simple market research yourself if you truly know what it is you need to know, if the information you’re trying to gather is marginally or unimportant, and if there’s very low risk if you get your decision wrong.

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Let’s say you’re considering opening a new branch office. You have three cities you’re considering in the region, and you need to pick the one that will bring in the most business. The expansion is going to cost the company $2,000,000, so you can’t afford to make the wrong choice.

There is certainly information about the different cities you are not aware of, and there’s quite a risk if you choose poorly — job loss, financial liability, and even a possible fatal blow to the company. This is definitely something you need the help of a professional research company to decide. The cost of the research and analysis will be substantially less than the cost if the project fails.

On the other hand, there are many internal decisions unique to your organization and office that could easily be decided by doing your own market research. For example, if you’re planning to remodel or add a break room, you don’t need to invest in professional research to determine whether you need two microwaves or three, if you need a bigger refrigerator, or what kind of chairs to use. This is the kind of thing that a brief employee survey or basic discussions could easily answer for you because the importance level is so low. If you make the wrong choice, there’s little to no consequence. If you needed three microwaves but only got two, then get another one later, or if you bought one too many, there’s $70 lost, which is minimal.

So very simply, if what you need to know will have a major impact on your business then you need to hire a research company that has the skills, experience, and expertise to perform major business research that can connect the dots between several different data points and help you get the insights you need to make the right decision.

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