Avoiding the risks of buying research

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Like most of the things you need to invest in when developing your startup, buying research carries a huge risk.


The risk here is that you pay for something that doesn’t fit; that doesn’t deliver what your business really needs.


So this week, I am focusing on some ways in which you can avoid and mitigate this risk and get a good return on investment.


Read time: 3.7 minutes

tl;dr: knowing whether you actually need research, picking the right supplier and applying your research to your business are key aspects of reducing risk when buying research.


OK, first let’s break down the key risks of buying research…

  • You buy research when you don’t need to
  • You pick the wrong partner
  • You don’t turn research findings into action

Now let’s tackle each one in turn…


Buying research when you don’t need to

You’d be surprised, delighted even, at the amount of research reports, datasets, insightful articles etc that exist online.


Very often there will be something related to the topic or audience you need to understand. Google search some key terms – like “research reports on X” – and within a few minutes you’ll have amassed a list of documents and articles to go back to and digest.


The big research companies are another place to search, eg:

It’s likely you won’t find exactly all you need but it will help. At the very least, doing some desk research like this will give you some context and it is likely that you’ll need to do less of your own research, saving you time and money.


Picking the right research partner

As an industry, market research in the UK is very competitive. Good for buyers, this means there is a high level of specialisation and price competitiveness.


Research suppliers often specialise by sector, method of research, audience etc. So look for one which has the right kind of specialism and experience you’re looking for.


Take a recommendation, but bear in mind what’s good for someone else might not be good for you.


I’d recommend approaching at least 3 suppliers for an initial quote. Compare their approach, their timings and – of course – their pricing.


You’ll need to brief them.


If you’re unfamiliar with briefing agencies, check out the #BetterBriefs project. I’ve created a specific version for research projects as Better Briefs is more focused on creative and marketing agencies. You can access my brief here.


This will help you to think about what you need research for.


But even a research supplier that you’ve briefed properly, has the right specialism, good experience, an approach that works and a reasonable price may not ‘feel’ right.


A couple of calls and meetings and you’ll get a sense of the chemistry between you. I’d be upfront about exactly who will be working on the project with you – sometimes a Director will be selling to you but a more junior team will do the work. Fine it that’s ok for you but you might feel differently.


Ask some probing questions to really understand how much they value your business. Things like:

  • What do you expect from me/my team to help ensure success?
  • What can go wrong and how do you deal with that?
  • What happens afterwards?

Turning research into action

You’ve done everything right, your research project has been successful and delivered great understanding and insight.


Job done?


No. There’s a final phase of work you need to do, which is to turn research findings into actions.


How should you apply the research to your business?


A good research supplier should want to help you with this – this is where they can add real value. This could be in the form of additional debrief meetings, workshops, follow up calls and advice. Making sure your research turns into genuine action is an absolute must.


Hopefully this helps you to think about how you would approach working with a research supplier. A key point is that you need to find one that’s right for you.


Customer IQ may or may not be that supplier but if you’d like to chat further about this, book some time with me at meetgideon.com.


Thanks for reading

Would you like to learn ‘How to Run Research’?

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