Choosing the Right Research Partner for Your Research Community
The success of a research community hinges on its ability to transform customer data and information into organizational understanding. So, if you’re considering a research community or seeking to optimize or evolve an existing one, selecting a partner with the right research skills for your organization’s needs is fundamental. But where do you begin?
To determine the right research partner for your short- or long-term needs, carefully ponder these four key questions.
1. What types of research are you planning?
Begin with the end in mind. Know what business objectives your research community exists to serve and consider the types of questions you want to answer. From there, determine the nature of the research activities that will get you to those answers, including how simple or complex they will need to be.
The type of research, level of rigor, and depth of insight skills necessary for different types of research may vary, which speaks to the importance of vetting your potential research partner relative to your specific business objectives. For example, are you planning to use the community:
- For straightforward gut checks?
- To explore and learn more about a potential new target audience?
- To understand emotional connections to a brand?
- To evaluate concepts?
- To cocreate and fuel innovation?
2. Does the prospective partner have the skill set to match your needs?
Once you know the research competency your community will require, you can determine what skills gaps your team needs filled. Dig deep for a detailed understanding of the research team responsible for your community. Questions to ask your potential partner include:
- How many individuals will be a part of our core team?
- Is the team dedicated to our community?
- How much experience does each individual bring?
- Who will be focused on strategy versus execution?
- How will we work together?
Additionally, within the proposed team, examine research know-how against the expertise that may be necessary, including:
If you’re planning to conduct survey research, ensure they have quantitative experts who can provide quant best practices and thought leadership.
Consider how complex your quantitative engagements may get (e.g., conjoint analysis, MaxDiff, TURF analysis, predictive modeling). Understand what data analytic skills they have at the ready should you need the support.
Qualitative Experts (Including Moderators)
If you’re considering qualitative activities, whether synchronous or asynchronous, ensure they provide trained qualitative specialists who know how to approach conversations with consumers in unbiased, creative ways that dig past rational thinking to uncover deep-seated emotions.
Member Engagement Specialists
Often overlooked, this role is key in cultivating an environment where members feel inspired and empowered to provide quality responses. These individuals specialize in the purposeful planning and execution of member engagement strategies.
3. Do they have the capacity to handle your anticipated volume?
All the expertise in the world without enough time and resources to activate is futile. Confirm the team that will be servicing your community has the capacity to handle your anticipated volume of research activities—and then some. Questions to ask include:
- How will research topics be prioritized?
- Would they have the capacity to take on a surge in volume?
- Do they have the ability to expand the team? If so, how will they onboard to ensure consistency in delivery?
- Are there cost or timing implications if research volume was to change?
- Do they support ad hoc research outside of the community? If yes, how will they connect the dots between learnings within and outside of the community?
4. Do they offer research services only or platform technology too?
Some community research partners offer research services only—not platform technology—although they might refer you to a platform partner. Others provide services and tech. That said, a focus on one or both isn’t necessarily a reflection of the emphasis they place on research expertise. There are likely separate teams focused on each area if they offer both.
To determine the right structure for you, consider the impact of working with one versus multiple companies. Beyond additional administrative work, if you partner with two separate providers for research services and platform technology, confirm how communication and management between them will be handled to avoid redundancies and inefficiencies.
For more detailed considerations about research community platform technology, read our blog, “Choosing a Research Community Platform.”
Research is paramount to the impact your community makes and to reaping the greatest ROI. You want to show up strong for your stakeholders with insights that influence appropriate actions, so make sure you select a partner who will truly meet you where you are while maximizing discovery potential. If you start with the purpose of your community, consider the above questions, and embrace in-depth conversations with potential partners, you will land on a partner with the research prowess that best aligns with your organization’s—and, in effect, your customers’—needs.
But don’t stop there. Research is one of many critical aspects of an effective community, thus partnership. For a comprehensive list of top partner selection considerations, check out “When Considering Research Community Partners, Take These Four Factors into Account.“