You may have noticed that this issue of Research With A Twist looks a lot different than the last issue you received. Over the coming weeks, you will see more changes in CSR’s “look” as we update our brand and client communications materials.
We are pleased – thrilled, actually – to announce the launch of CSR’s brand-new web site, as a first step in this journey! Not only is it prettier than the old site, you’ll also find more depth and insight regarding the work we do and the results we’ve achieved.
Top players are important when putting together a winning team. But as the Boston Celtics have demonstrated this season, having a strong bench matters too!
Today’s newsletter offers 6 practical suggestions for making the most of “bench support” in your market research organization.
Julie Brown President
Mark Palmerino Executive Vice President
How Deep is Your Bench?
Living here in Boston, I admit that as sports fans, we have been spoiled in recent years. The Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics have all won championships within the last decade (some more than once), and it seems that hardly a year goes by that we don’t have at least one of our teams in contention.
This year’s big sports story, however, has been the Boston Celtics. Not because they’re favored to win another championship (they’re not), but rather because they’ve come this far in the first place. The “Big Three” – Boston’s core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen – are all well into their thirties and past their respective primes. And yet, as of this writing, the Celtics are alive in the playoffs and doing quite well, thank you very much.
Why? The answer, according to greater sports minds than mine, is bench strength.
Indeed, while other NBA teams rely on a handful (or fewer) of “showcase players” to carry them through, the present-day Celtics have filled the gaps caused by injury and age by continually going deep into their roster. These mostly younger, less experienced players (known collectively to casual fans as “Who is that guy?) have played a critical role in a successful Celtics season.
Similarly, and as a market research organization that plays for a number of different “teams,” we can’t help but see the parallels in our client organizations. Here as well, bench strength – having staff on hand to fill the gaps and step up as necessary – can play an important role in winning championships.
Unfortunately, many organizations have seen their benches cut in recent years as the financial doldrums of 2008-09 led to significant layoffs and belt-tightening. And while in many organizations today the demand for market research is (thankfully) on the rise, budget constraints and corporate directives to contain overhead have prevented in-house departments from keeping pace in staffing, a reality which may constrain the speed and quality with which work gets done.
Which is why – and at the risk of appearing self-serving – today’s newsletter highlights six areas in which we recommend client organizations turn to their external market research partners as a means of providing “bench support.” Specifically…
Project Management. Managing a large project typically requires the coordination of multiple vendors, research types, phases and participants. There are a lot of moving parts, the oversight of which is a skill unto itself. By tapping one trusted vendor to keep the project on track and on time, staff-strapped client organizations can move more quickly than if they attempt to handle everything in-house.
Quality control. Complicated projects and strict time constraints are a proven formula for generating research errors. Your already under-the-gun staff, however, has little opportunity for the quiet, in-depth review and analysis necessary to avoid many of these mistakes. Leveraging an outside partner can keep project quality on track.
Report writing. Research is only beneficial, of course, to the extent it is shared with those in a position to take action. In-depth report writing, however, can take a great deal of concentrated time, particularly when the results need to be shared in different ways for different constituencies, both internal and external.
Research results that will be presented to a government agency as a means of influencing legislation, for example, will require an entirely different reporting format and approach than what might be used to share the same results with company senior management.
All of this takes time and resources, and the external market research firm fielding the research can often be tapped to generate a variety of reports as needed.
Research delivery and review. At the conclusion of a significant project, the internal team will often spend a great deal of time socializing the findings among various staff members and departments. Many projects are commissioned to meet a specific business need and your internal colleagues in that business are eagerly anticipating the results.
Here as well, the market research firm involved in the project can offer support. These folks have been eating and sleeping the project during its duration and are well-versed in the details and nuances of its findings. In addition, if appropriately positioned, these external people can provide an “unbiased” point of view, lending a different type of credibility to the findings than might an internal team member.
External publication. Much of your market research may be of value to external audiences; sharing the results can raise your visibility, generate client leads and shape public discourse.
But it all takes time. Consider tapping your external research partners for press releases, report distribution, live webinars and other tactics that raise your public profile.
Bench training. Over the longer term, of course, and as staff hiring picks up again, the objective is to train and develop your internal staff on performing these additional activities. Towards that end, many of our clients employ “lunch and learn” sessions (or similar) on a regular basis, in which research partners are invited to come in and present on specific topics or areas of expertise.
Here’s the Twist. Whether in sports or in business, it’s the superstars on the team who get most of the attention. The teams and companies that continue to win over the long term, however, understand the importance of a strong bench as well.
Consider utilizing your trusted market research partners now, to help fill in the gaps and become your bench!
Mixology (Putting Research into Practice)
If you’re considering involving an external firm in one or more of the activities described above, we recommend:
Anticipating the need from the very beginning. By requesting a proposal that includes the option for these additional services, you’ll vastly reduce the ramp-up time necessary should you decide to move ahead.
Even if you choose not to outsource additional work in this way, simply seeing how market research firms respond to your request for additional services will give you insight into who they are and what they’re capable of.
Agreeing on a flexible fee arrangement. Here as well, you’ll save a great deal of time later on, if up front, you are able to develop a budget that anticipates the potential involvement of an outside firm in different ways, depending on how your needs evolve during the project.
Planning carefully. You can’t involve a third party efficiently without having a good sense of how a given project will proceed and knowing who’s responsible for what. Integrating an external company at a deeper level has many benefits (as discussed) but it also requires that more attention be paid to process and project coordination.
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. The “Twist” to what we offer is this: We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data. As a result our clients gain more actionable and valuable insights from their research efforts.
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