In the age of Alexa and Siri, it’s hard to fathom that the answer to one’s questions may not live on the internet. In a world where information is most often available in no more than a couple of clicks, what other information could one possibly crave?
While online searches boast access to a wide range of third-party data that can help to strengthen media pitches, heighten the timeliness of company news, and pinpoint powerful trends, the only way to find out what your customers are truly thinking is to ask them. Behold the role of primary research.
What do you want to learn about your clients and customers?
Proprietary research comes in many shapes and sizes. From focus groups to point-of-purchase surveys to exit interviews, there are numerous ways to frame the data collection process to ensure you are gathering the most relevant data. Looking to gain feedback from prospective clients before rolling out a new product or service? Curious where your college or private school’s young alumni are now? Wondering what drives the philanthropy of a specific generation? Commissioning proprietary research can help uncover the answers.
When developing questions for a survey or focus group it is important to consider not only what data you aim to collect but how that data will be used in the future. For example, is gathering customer insights the first step in determining whether or not to discontinue a specific product or service? Are you surveying alumni and/or donors to determine how best to package an upcoming capital campaign? By focusing on both the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, companies and causes ensure they will obtain data that is best suited to meet their needs.
How are your competitors using data?
Beyond gathering insights from one’s own stakeholders, primary research such as climate surveys and polls can enhance a company’s expert positioning and provide a unique angle through which to engage the media.
While the scope of these surveys can vary widely, something as simple as a one question Omnibus poll can provide a statistically significant number with which to work. Omnibus polls are great for grabbing a quick piece of data that represents how a particular population feels about a particular subject. At Co-Communications, we’ve used Omnibus polls to dispel myths about divorce, assess how a tough economy impacted the availability of quality child care, and debunk the misconception that a gallon of bottled water was less expensive than a gallon of gasoline. (And that was when gas prices were at all-time highs!)
When assessing how your business or non-profit can use custom research to help advance its mission and vision, it is important to also assess how your competitors are using data. For example, many commercial brokerage firms issue monthly or quarterly activity reports for specific asset classes and submarkets. Instead of following this trend, is there a data gap that your firm could help to fill in the industry? Remember, it is important to maintain a focus on adding value, not clutter, at all times. We live in a world where nearly every individual, business and nonprofit is creating their own content and the competition to grab someone’s attention – let alone maintain a hold of it – is high.
Engaging a firm to conduct proprietary research on behalf of your organization is a great way to demonstrate that you value your stakeholder’s insights, enhance expert positioning, fill a data gap in the marketplace and, most importantly, secure quantifiable data to help hone the future of your organization while creating the potential to maximize success. If you decide that proprietary research is a tool from which your organization can benefit, take the time to carefully plan for how you will leverage that data, including whether it will potentially become an annual activity. It is important to be ready to pull the trigger on releasing any data that you want to share with the media and any other public audiences as soon as it becomes available to prevent it from becoming stale – or another organization beating you to market with similar data.