B2B Market Research Services vs. In-House Research: How to Decide?

October 25, 2023

ViB Editorial Team


Topics we'll cover

I often hear questions like Are B2B market research services and firms, like ViB Research, truly worth it?

Market research seems fairly straightforward, couldn’t my team just do it?

Let’s start by saying, I get it. 

There are probably a slew of thoughts and considerations running through your mind regarding spending more of your marketing budget on something that doesn’t feel like it directly impacts your bottom line. 

But all these are great questions and concerns that deserve to be explored. And frankly, I’m excited you’re thinking about them, and here to unpack the topic with me. 

Market research is a strategy that underpins most (if not all) successful marketing campaigns. In fact, 90% of B2B marketers say that market research is an effective channel for generating quality leads. 

The main challenge is a lot of us don’t always know how to crystalize a market research strategy. And that includes deciding which direction to go: Conduct research in-house, maybe with the help of some B2B market research tools, or completely outsource to B2B market research companies.

So let’s take a look at both options, in-house vs outsourced, and examine their pros and cons, to see which approach best fits your marketing goals and business objectives. 👇

Pros and cons list examining inhouse research vs outsourced b2b market research services

Should you do in-house B2B marketing research?

In-house marketing research is research conducted within an organization, usually, the marketing department, using its own resources. 

Producing original research allows organizations to create effective lead-generation strategies while simultaneously building brand recognition and drawing in new prospects through inbound content. 

The biggest pros with in-house research are that you have 100% control of your research agenda and 100% data ownership. That isn’t always the case with major B2B research companies like Gartner and IDC. 

Additionally, affordability is a huge plus. Companies sometimes charge up to $250,000, no kidding, for a single research study. And that’s before licensing fees for using the data produced. 

The main blocker though, is that research isn’t an easy project. You’ll get what I mean in the next section.

How to do market research in 4 steps

Think of the whole process as four key stages: the prep, data collection, analysis, and application phases.

Graph of how to do market research in house in 4 steps

Stage 1 - Preparatory phase:

Always start by defining your research objectives, so you and your team are aligned on your goals, objectives, and targets to set yourselves up for success. 

This stage will include:

  1. Identifying who your target respondents are
  2. Determining your research format — 
  3. Developing your questionnaire

My top tip: Try starting with a simpler quantitative survey if you’re new to in-house market research.

Stage 2 - Data collection phase

Next, it’s time for respondent recruitment. Rented lead lists from data providers, referrals, and targeted social channels are all great ways to find a specific audience to answer your questionnaire. 

Promote your survey just like how you amplify your other lead generation campaigns, and closely monitor the incoming results for quality.

💡 If you want more depth on this process, this in-depth guide on conducting market research in-house will definitely help.

Conducting market research doesn’t have to be an inaccessible or expensive strategy any longer. Download your copy to get started with research, without breaking the bank.

Stage 3 - Analysis phase

Now it’s time to look at your numbers! The goal is to turn raw information into actionable insights, using quantitative and qualitative analysis techniques. 

Handy tools include SPSS, R, or Excel for in-depth statistical evaluations, and even Tableau or PowerBI for data visualization.

Stage 4 - Application phase

Finally, the market research process concludes with turning your insights into strategic actions. 

Trust me, there’s an endless list of ways to repurpose a single piece of research, but the two main applications areas are:

  1. Content strategy: Create a whole library of assets with original data, with effective visuals and analysis.
  2. Product strategy: Use your data to prioritize the development of product features, inform product-market fit, and so much more.

⬇️ Lots of B2B tech companies start with long-form reports like these, before repurposing them into webinars, social posts, blogs, and press releases

Limitations to know before conducting marketing research in-house

Now, you might see the catch with in-house research. I’m talking about the challenges you might face while doing this lengthy process within your team.

Market research is time-consuming. As in, on average a small research project takes around 2 months or more to complete

Skill is another factor. Research not only takes more time and resources than standard marketing campaigns, but also requires a unique set of expertise

From Stage 1 to Stage 4 I just covered, there are some pretty technical steps to nail, such as: 

  • Planning the perfect questionnaire that balances respondent attrition vs insights
  • Analyzing the data to make meaningful correlations
  • Packaging the insights into a content assets that convert

… and you get the drift.  

Lastly, in-house market research will always have one drawback — bias. That’s probably the biggest challenge.

Consider a market research report example about the State of Email Security. If you were to publish it and conclude that you as the best provider, readers will find it harder to trust your results.

In contrast, seasoned researchers are trained to design appropriate investigations that use an unbiased line of questioning and analysis. 

Having an external player recognize you as the best provider means a whole lot more than you tooting your own horn. 

Let me explain more by talking about the flipside — the benefits of having a third-party research partner.

Benefits of outsourced B2B market research services

Outsourced research involves working with credible B2B market research companies that conduct full-service research and data collection on your organization’s behalf.

To understand the impact of outsourced market research, let’s consider the inherent benefits your team can expect. 👇

1. Credibility

Neutral, third-party research is the most trusted basis for content because of the low risk of bias, use of research best practices, and years of industry experience. 

Understandably, the data collected is legitimized in consumers’ minds because of the healthy distance from the brand. Internal research will always, whether subconsciously or not, be conducted with some level of internal bias. 

Regardless of the steps a marketing team takes to make sure the data is collected without bias, the results will always have the highest likelihood of bias when conducted by team members. 

2. Resources and expertise

Seasoned researchers have unreplicable expertise in scoping, surveying, and analysis. 

Effective questioning requires years of experience in understanding consumer psychology. And, requires extensive training on how to ask questions that allow participants to respond honestly without any distortions. 

Researchers understand the nuances and intricacies that come with the territory, saving you time, effort, and potentially, distorted and inaccurate data.

3. Content production capabilities 

Research data should provide your team with more than the answers you’re looking for. Sure, you should get invaluable information on your consumers – their likes, interests, pain points, and motivations – to help you make strategic business decisions.

But, market research firms take it one step further. 

They transform raw data into shareable content, extending your capabilities and crafting the insights into digestible pieces of thought leadership content that resonate with your target audience. 

4. Respondent recruiting

What’s the greatest struggle for in-house market research companies? Finding a large enough sample of research participants within their target audience

I always say to shoot for:

  • At least n=200 as a start
  • Up to n=400 for budget and practicality reasons

That lower rung is usually a big challenge for most organizations. 

Not only is it hard to find enough consumers interested in participating in your research study, but it’s even harder to find participants within a specific consumer segment that matches your research agenda. 

In contrast, a reputable research partner will have an established approach to respondent recruiting. 

Take the VIB Community for example, which is a millions-strong network of high-tech professionals, and what we use to easily find hundreds of specific personas to power each market research project.

TLDR? Outsourcing not only saves your team valuable time and money, but also elevates your credibility, enhances content production, and extends your reach.

Are there limitations with B2B market research services?

There’s two sides to the coin for every situation. For market research vendors, the main drawbacks you need to consider are:

  1. Price: Most reputable players charge a 6 digit price tag!
  2. Branding and agenda: Some research vendors won’t allow companies to decide on the research topic. Some may even place your brand against multiple competitors (aka the sponsorship model).
  3. Data usage: Reusing the results might fetch additional licensing fees, or be completely disallowed.

Thankfully, there are some vendors and solutions, like ViB Research, that don’t carry these limitations. If you’re interested in the specs, check out the datasheet.

Combining in-house and outsourced market research

Having a hard time deciding which route is best for your team and budget? 

Sometimes, a great way to mitigate risk is by employing a combination of both in-house and outsourced market research. Some organizations prefer using an in-house market researcher for their day-to-day research (social listening, packaging impact, consumer surveys, product surveys, etc.) while outsourcing campaign-specific research to professionals. Data that are intended to make a market share level impact should be left to a credible B2B market research partner. 

If you’re hesitant about jumping all in on outsourced market research, we suggest combining your efforts, using an internal team member for your everyday research, and utilizing the expertise of a professional for campaign-specific research.

Choosing a B2B market research company

You’re ready to take the next step and find a B2B market research services provider. Now, where do you start? 

Right here! ➡️ I break down the 5 best B2B market research companies and also talk about what the agency landscape is like. 

If you’re eyeing a vendor that might not fit that list, think about how to overcome some of the limitations we

Here is a bite-sized list of expectations you should have when picking a market research vendor:

  • They have a track record of proven success with customers within your industry.
  • They create a customized project plan (ideally offer co-designed surveys)
  • They’re trustworthy and offer a transparent process.
  • They’re thought leaders in your industry.
  • They offer full-data ownership (no licensing nonsense).
  • Finally, they have a nurtured network of consumers in your target audience. 

A great rule of thumb is to ask for customer testimonials – one that had success and one that didn’t. This will not only show you what they did to achieve a successful campaign but also how they managed unmet expectations. 

Psst… we recently invited a happy customer from Split.io to talk about ViB’s market research solution. Tucker and his team recently launched an incredible, data-packed Feature Management Impact Report, and we’re just as excited about his results as he is. 

See how Robert and others easily build libraries of differentiated content from a single research report.

Discover everything you need to know about ViB Research, including how it works and its success stories through our comprehensive video walkthrough.

Market research partners should propel your growth, expand your reach, and increase brand awareness. 

With an invaluable B2B market research partner like ViB, you can easily survey millions of targeted tech professionals and generate original research for all styles of content. Your growth is their progress.

Regardless of the size of your company, B2B market research services are a strategic way of building a powerful go-to-market engine. Generating qualified leads through data-backed thought leadership content is a great way to outpace your competitors and build lasting relationships with your consumers. 

If your team is looking for custom B2B market research services, or next-gen demand generation services for every touchpoint in your sales funnel, we’d love to help! Get a no-pressure walkthrough with our team today.

Need more info to get started with B2B lead generation?

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