How to Build Impactful Research Partnerships

Emily James

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    Insight experts and teams often feel like they are fighting a battle on all fronts. With stakeholders drifting further away from insights, market research budgets being slashed throughout all industries, and the research marketplace creating more tools than ever before – it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed and in need of some support.

    Building insight partnerships with the right people can help research experts through the toughest of times, whether that’s partnerships with other insights experts and teams, partnerships with suppliers or research agencies, or partnerships with key stakeholders around their organisation. Research or insight partnerships are vital for the success of any strategy and insight team, but not only that, it is vital for the success of the stakeholder organisation too. A thriving insight team will always be the best way to a thriving business.

    But how can we build those partnerships? And how do we identify who to build them with?

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    Building partnerships with the right people can help insight experts through the toughest times - but finding the right people can be just as tough. 

    With Stakeholders

    For in-house insight teams especially, getting the right stakeholders on side is the best way to keep insights flowing throughout an organisation. They are the key to understanding crucial business contexts that we might not know, for advocating and supporting your strategies and budget requests, and for continuing the communication of insights in conversations in which insight experts are not present. These stakeholders are the ones who help other stakeholders commission research projects, and make it an easier time for both parties through the commissioning and design stage.

    With this information, can you identify anyone who is currently a research partner? Or any stakeholder who might be best placed being a research partner to support your cause? If no one springs to mind, looking at the organisation’s hierarchy, understanding who in each team is most interested in insights, and who makes the decisions most will lead you to the right people. It might not be the ones who make the final decisions in each team, but those close to them who have some influence and are more open to receiving insights regularly.

    Other times, these stakeholder-insight partnerships can be made through research requests and collaborations. Those stakeholders who do request insights are already professional acquaintances who know who you are, and what value you must add, and with a few well-placed conversations where you add more value, these stakeholders could become frequent customers and eventually partners.

    There are several networking techniques that work well to establish these connections and nurture them into mutually beneficial professional relationships. Including, opening any conversation with situational relevance (in this case, insights and current challenges those stakeholders are facing), having your elevator pitch ready for whenever the conversation calls for it (the elevator pitch should be the power of insights, with a degree of adaptability to the stakeholder you’re chatting to), and asking memorable questions (which also works in your favour, as these answers might give you information about the current situation or strategy that you didn’t know beforehand). These techniques also aid in maintaining the partnership after it has been built.

    While I have been framing this part mostly for the in-house insight team, this would also work for agency-side research teams. And this particular type of partnership will lead to a better flow of insights throughout the organisation, and increase the level of customer saliency in the stakeholder organisation over time.

    With Tool and Sample Providers

    To build this type of partnership, insight experts need to ask themselves:

    • Which tools do you need on a regular basis?
    • Do you need a new sample or do you already have one but need more?
    • What research are you looking to conduct? Does that change or is it consistent?
    • Are you expanding internationally and need contacts in new countries?

    For established in-house or agency-side insight teams, you will likely already have a set research platform or suite of tools at your disposal, but are they the right ones for your current and future research needs? Or were they set in place at the beginning and just never changed? Either way, there are some partnerships there already formed, and even if these might not be right for when you need something, these trusted partnerships can point you in the direction of others who might be able to provide you with exactly what you need. Having some names and numbers on hand can be crucial when time and research quality is of the essence.

    For those who are just starting out, or are established but are looking for a whole new suite of tools and partnerships to better represent your evolving needs, then starting from scratch can be quite daunting. There is a massive marketplace of digital tools, providers and potential partnerships out there to sift through – making sure to find the right one is crucial. Take a look at our blog by Maria Twigge, or our other blog by Jess Arnold to find tips and tricks that might help you create your new network and research arsenal.

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    Stakeholders, Research Agencies and Service Providers are just three of many potential partners that can be a part of a crucial support system for insight teams.

    With Research Agencies

    This one is mainly for in-house insight experts, although agency teams definitely need help sometimes too. Partnering with research agencies are great when they have the tools you need to use, the connections that might elevate your research experience, or the resources to extend your own capacity. Or sometimes you just need a helping hand; maybe there’s a research project that’s too large, going to take too long, and overwhelm any in-house experts, partnering with a research agency will let you scale your capacity and extend your reach when you need it most.

    If stakeholders have commissioned a research agency and there’s no in-house team, the agency teams alone might not have capacity needed to do the research justice, so drawing on other agency contacts to collaborate with can create some fantastic opportunities when done right.

    Whether in-house or agency-side, when partnerships are created and solidified well, these can lead to more and better insights in a quicker time frame; which, when acted upon, leads to a better understanding of customers cross the client organisation. Partnerships such as these are the foundation for nurturing a culture of Customer Salience throughout any stakeholder organisation, more efficient decision-making processes on a daily basis and future-proof business strategies in the long run.

    Insights Empowerment

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