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Are you making the most of your existing research?

We’re swimming in data. Drowning in research.

We have behavioural data, demographic data, consumer trend data and market reports. Not forgetting all of the research we’ve commissioned ourselves.

More than ever before, one of the main challenges for client-side insight professionals is making more of all this information. Just as consumers suffer paralysis when we present them with too many choices, we are in similar danger when overloaded information.

How do we avoid such paralysis? How do we make sure this all of this insight is not wasted?

  1. Review what you already know at the start of every new project

Commissioning research takes time and money. Before embarking on anything new, turn to your existing resources. Look at your existing library of research, what other information is available in the market and what you know about other similar sectors. When you’ve got a comprehensive picture of where you are now, use any primary research to fill in the gaps. While it might seem like a time-consuming exercise, it will actually save time and money in the long run. You’ll probably commission fewer studies. And those you do commission will be smaller in scope.

It will actually save time and money in the long run

We did this for Bristol City Council. It was launching (and did launch) a municipal energy company, Bristol Energy. We made its publically-accountable budget work much harder by using a huge amount of published research and existing customer data. We only conducted our own research to fill gaps in our knowledge.

  1. Make your existing research the whole project

Start every project with the assumption that you don’t need to do any new research. Assume that the answers already exist. It may be the case that you have 80% of the answer to a new brief in your existing research. But finding this 80% will be much quicker than getting the full 100% by commissioning a new study. Having some of the answers quickly is surely better than having all of the answers slowly. With 80%, stakeholders can act. They can test and learn in the market. 100% may be more accurate but it may also mean you miss a big opportunity by being slower to launch.

Having some of the answers quickly is surely better than having all of the answers slowly

Imagine your product development team want to test a new idea for a product. It may be similar to one that’s been researched before or that a competitor has launched. You can look at the reaction to these, consider the differences, and see if you have any research already that might give clues on how these differences might be perceived. This won’t give you the complete picture of how the market might react, but neither would a full piece of primary research. That can only ever be a guide to performance in the real world. So why not use what you have already and apply your professional judgement.

  1. Produce regular summaries of everything you know

All customer and market insight teams want to get better at influencing decision making in their organisation. One way of doing this is to showcase your strategic capabilities to your stakeholders. Impress them with regular summaries of research on the big questions facing your organisation. These summaries will provide content for seminars, presentations, newsletters and nuggets for senior management. And they’ll make it easier for you to identify gaps in your knowledge. You’ll soon realise if you have no consumer or market insight on one of your organisation’s top strategic priorities.

In a past role at Legal & General, my team and I reviewed all we knew about a typical customer’s journey with the company. From when they first heard of Legal & General to when they stop claiming their pension or paying their life insurance. We used this as a paper to argue for greater customer centricity in the organisation, for lunchtime seminars, team meetings and newsletters. The content provided a compelling platform for our team to engage more with senior management.

How can you find time for this?

Every client-side insight team I’ve ever known works under severe time constraints. It’s hard to find the time to review and synthesise your existing knowledge. It can be seen as a luxury when project deadlines require immediate attention.

This is a false economy.

Making more of what you know will help reduce the number of research projects you’re commissioning. It will mean those you do commission are smaller. Most importantly, it will actually free up your team to spend more time being strategic and influencing decisions in your organisation.

And if you really don’t feel you can spare the time, work with agencies that can.

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