Why You Need Advanced Research

Posted by Mitchell Communications Group on June 6, 2013

In a previous post, I discussed the value of quality research and talked about the three levels of research. However, I left discussing advanced research to another blog post. Guess what? It’s time for that post.

Why You Need Advanced Research 20130604

Because I know that most of us can’t remember what we had for breakfast, here’s a refresher on the examples of advanced research at Mitchell:

  • Consumer and stakeholder surveys
  • In-depth study of competitors’ strategy and offerings
  • Statistical analysis of data collected from previous campaigns
  • Statistical analysis of data collected from competitor campaigns
  • Statistical analysis of consumer and stakeholder data
  • ROI evaluation methods

When deployed correctly, any one of these advanced research projects can provide immense value for you and your client by providing new insights, helping determine why a campaign was (or wasn’t) successful, spotting opportunities or setting future strategies. Today, I’ll focus on when you need an advanced research project and what makes one successful.

In architecture and design, there is principle that says “form follows function.” The idea being that the design of the building or object (its form) should be determined by how the building or object will be used (its function). This principle applies to advanced research projects as well. The goals of your project should determine what the research project looks like. For example, a project with the goal of measuring employees’ understanding of the company’s values and brands would conduct a survey rather than study data from previous PR campaigns.

Some common reasons for conducting advanced research and coordinating research actions include:

  • Reason: You want to evaluate the success of a program that you have run multiple times
    • Research Action: Statistical analysis of data collected from previous campaigns and data collected from competitor campaigns
  • Reason: You want insights into your target audience’s behaviors and preferences
    • Research Action: Conduct consumer surveys to measure the desired behaviors and preferences
  • Reason: You want to evaluate your competitor’s campaigns
    • Research Action: Conduct consumer surveys to gain understanding of competitor’s reach, statistical analysis on data collected from competitor campaigns, qualitative research into the competitor’s brand and products
  • Reason: You want to understand your client’s stakeholders, how they relate to each other and how they view your client’s company
    • Research Action: Conduct stakeholder surveys and focus groups to better understand their views of the company and suggestions for improvement

You’ve figured out your function and form, so you’re ready to go, right? Not really. First you need to plan out the details of your advanced research project. When planning, you and your team need to consider the following:

  • SMART objectives: Set out what you want to achieve with this project and make sure your objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely)
  • Purpose and scope: Discuss them, write them down, email them, do whatever you can to make sure these are clear and understood by everyone involved in the project
  • Time and resources: Make sure you have what you need to complete the project without cutting corners or delivering inadequate results
  • Timeline: You and your team need a timeline for how they see the project progressing and this timeline has regular milestones to keep the project moving
  • Patience: Advanced research project tend to be iterative, more than linear, so everyone needs to have patience; just because the project needed to move back a stage or two, doesn’t mean it’s a failure or will come in late and over budget

OK, so you’ve got your goals, your objectives, your timelines and your cute, little poster from Etsy that says “Keep Calm and Carry On,” you can officially start research. But that doesn’t mean the project will be easy from here on, even with proper planning, an advanced research project can run into problems. Some common obstacles to a successful advanced research project include:

  • Moving the goal posts: Much like in sports, research teams need to have defined goals, so they know what they’re working toward. Unclear goals or changing the goals too often during the process can result in the research project having to be redone or unsatisfactory research results
  • A failure to communicate: Miscommunication or only communicating part of the goals, objectives or timeline for the project can also result in unsatisfactory research results or having to rework parts of the project
  • Great expectations: The data can only be what it is; expecting an advanced research project to confirm your belief or strategy is asking to be disappointed. The results of the research should determine recommendations and not the other way around. Using advanced research in this way is a waste of your company’s time and money

Have you used advanced research? Let us know how it has worked for you in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.