MRA enlisted several researchers attending the Corporate Researchers Conference in Dallas this week to report back summaries & insights from the conference sessions.  This report is on “Turning Research Outside In” by Deb Hartman, Market Research Manager at 3M.

The marketing departments in many of 3M’s 42 autonomous divisions were using do-it-yourself (DIY) tools to conduct consumer surveys and using those results to make business decisions.  The intention of learning the voice of the customer was good, but the survey quality and sample selection was poor.  The centralized marketing research team wanted to take control of these surveys to apply their expertise to improve the survey quality, without adding headcount or budget.

Goal:  Provide high quality research at an affordable cost.


  • Utilize contract employees with social science/business backgrounds to design/field/report projects with oversight by full-time staff and bill internal clients to cover costs;
  • Use survey and analysis software packages and external sample providers as key resources.


  1. Puts control with MR experts;
  2. Allows 3M to do research they couldn’t otherwise afford;Flexibility to expand or reduce contract resources as needed.
  3. Contractors get experience, training, networking; and
  4. 3M gets cost savings, better decisions and growth.


  • Utilization of internal MR resources is strong and growing.
  • The effort saved 3M around $2MM last year versus conducting the research with external research companies.
  • Transitioning from marketing departments using DIY to using internal MR was mainly by word of mouth and by educating them on value of MR expertise.