Bright ideas to sweat your research budget

Is it time to rethink tactical research, asks Alpa Virdi, director at Spotlight Market Research.

Sponsored by Spotlight


Research that’s in the public eye not only
relates to research of national interest such
as government policy drives, opinion polls and consumer confidence surveys; it also covers tactical research specifically designed to enhance your brands. Tactical research needn’t be quick and dirty – in fact high-quality, strategically aligned tactical research will engage customers while benefiting your brand and bottom line.

A story-led approach helps enormously. At Spotlight we analyse research data holistically, meaning we don’t pre-judge outcomes by looking only at a limited set of cross-tabulations, but make connections across the whole survey data and let the customer stories unfold. Our reporting is then built around these in a way that makes sense
of the data and makes sense to our clients. In turn, these stories, which are fully grounded in the research data, can be transported directly to press releases, digital and print content. Case studies, customer experiences and quotes can be overlaid to create rich, credible and vivid content.

Another effective use of tactical research, particularly for business-to-business marketers, is to inform your audiences. Industry surveys, product reviews, salary and career-development surveys, and data on industry trends are hugely valuable research-based products. Organisations that are involved in consultations, thought leadership and event planning can disseminate compelling story-led research reports to support their objectives and engage their audiences.

To really make this work, the research needs
to be robust, high-quality and independent.
 The initiative will probably involve cross-team working, as strategically aligned tactical research will often require the input of several functions. You also need a media and communications plan and the expertise to manage the PR aspect. If this sounds rather too expensive, consider this – your research data and your audience are valuable and therefore could be used to generate revenues.

Outsourcing has many benefits. The decision tree can help your company plan its next move

Highly relevant research reports and aggregated data can be sold as off-the-shelf products to third-party organisations, to purchase decision- makers and shared with strategic partners that complement your brand. The research feeds into media coverage, editorial and online content.

As an example, one key client created a web portal for its audience that houses its annual international research product. Their media launch attracts significant coverage around the globe.

We have specific experience in helping our clients to produce research-based products and we work with a firm specialising in creating and managing high-value, high-return strategic partnerships (sponsorships). These sponsors in turn provide relevant content for your digital and print outputs, special events and so on, thereby keeping your audiences happy and engaged too.

For independent bodies, off-the-shelf product satisfaction reports can be a valuable source of income, especially if attached to best-in-class awards. As long as independence and objectivity are guaranteed, this research can be sponsored too. Survey space can be sold to syndicated partners featured in the reviews, with a deal to provide aggregated data and rights to use its own product ratings in marketing communications.

One question that needs to be asked each time you are planning research, whether strategic or tactical, is should you outsource or conduct it in- house. A plethora of DIY survey tools is bringing market research closer to the marketer, cutting out the professional researcher. On the one hand this cheers me, as it shows the huge demand for such research. On the other, it concerns me whether DIY enthusiasts are getting a good return on the time invested by staff and respondents.

Having in-house staff trained in basic market research skills would help enormously and is inexpensive. Of course, you may have a full team of professional in-house researchers, but the question remains: should you outsource or insource any one project? Here’s a clue: the answer is not down to budget.

In fact, it rather depends on the nature of the research and why you are doing it. Asking yourself a few simple questions will help to guide you. Does the project involve a sensitive subject such as employee research, customer satisfaction or subjects that could be difficult for respondents
to discuss? Does it require special skills you don’t have in-house, such as research among children, or advanced statistics? Is it likely to be large and complex, tying up your team for weeks or months?

If the answer to any of these is yes, outsourcing is the only way to ensure your research is conducted efficiently, ethically and reliably. Economies of scale can also apply where you need access to services with expensive overheads, such as international research. Finally, if your research is high profile internally, or in the public eye, then outsourcing will add to its credibility.
At Spotlight we advocate collaboration over pure outsourcing, since this combines the very best of a client’s market knowledge with our research expertise, objectivity and economies of scale. Collaboration also works with insourcing. Some of our more ‘budget challenged’ clients prefer to conduct DIY surveys and outsource the analysis, reporting and business recommendations to us.

Collaboration can be challenging for some as it involves working in partnership with your agency, trusting, sharing information and providing access to your internal and external stakeholders. But given these opportunities to enhance your brand, influence the influencers, engage your audiences and generate revenue, isn’t it time you reconsidered tactical research?

Alpa Virdi 

Spotlight MRS

52 Jarrett Avenue
ME2 4NL 

T: 01634 540028



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