By Meredith Morino, Mike D’Abramo, Gloria Watson, Barb Paszyn, and Sarah Liverance

A wise researcher looks back on projects past as a personal meta-analysis to discover trends, identify points of success that ought to be replicated, and identify mistakes that can be learned from. Now that 2017 has drawn to a close, we’d love to share the top 10 things we learned from our meta-analysis – ten insights we gained from working with our clients and their intriguing marketing research projects.

1) We are #BetterTogether.

We know. We keep saying this but it’s true. Whether we’re part of the Research and Analytics team or the Strategic Advisory Services team or the Storytelling team, whether we specialize in qualitative or quantitative research, our best work comes when we leverage the unique superpowers of every person on every team. When qual experts collaborate with quant experts to bring actionable data to strategy experts, the resulting visually stunning outputs simply cannot be beat. We can do amazing things when we put our heads together.

2) We are filmmakers.

Static written documents are usually necessary but, often, they are not sufficient. Taking advantage of video production is a fabulous way to augment projects at any stage of the process. Adding video makes learning more accessible and increases client engagement. Beyond video clips, you can use ‘splash’ videos to kick-off a presentation, bring consumer segments to life, or even showcase work in an RFP. Your imagination is the only limitation.

3) You can do cultural analyses on anything.

Context matters. The world around us shapes our clients’ businesses as much as clients shape their own world. Cultural analysis and semiotics are essential research techniques that can help you better decode experiences from everyday visits to the coffee shop or the pharmacy to underground subcultures representing rare segments of people. And, they can even help you understand things like protein, coffee, and pharmaceuticals.

4) Cast your net wider.

Because you never know what you might catch. Expanding the recruitment plan beyond the primary user/target group can yield amazing insights. Why speak to just pet owners when you can also speak to veterinarians and pet store managers, all key influencers in the pet health care journey. Understanding the various perspectives sheds light on conflicting viewpoints as well as the varying power and influence yielded by each person.

5) Good things come in small packages.

Sometimes you don’t need to do a lot to discover impactful and actionable insights. Small projects CAN add a lot of value for your client. For example, four carefully planned and executed interviews can serve to kick off a valuable work session, and help key business stakeholders move past assumptions and ground discussions in reality.

6) Seeing is believing.

You know this, but it’s a good reminder that, sometimes, the value of running focus groups extends beyond the raw data and information gathered during the session. Backroom interactions can be a huge bonus! Sometimes, it’s the backroom experience of witnessing genuine emotions from real consumers that creates insightful lightbulbs for clients. In other cases, cross-country road trips with clients create powerful human bonds that facilitate smooth projects.  

7) We are grateful for online boards.

Sometimes you don’t need to see it to believe it (See #6)! On occasion, studies would be far too time-consuming or challenging to field in person. Online discussion boards can solve those problems and more. The privacy that boards offer helps people feel safe and comfortable sharing personal details about a variety of topics, whether positive or negative.

8) User experience matters.

Often you really do need to experience the product to get the most actionable insight. Descriptions and images are nice but they can drastically overstate or understate the appeal of a product. Images simply can’t replace the in-person experience, even if that experience involves a prototype. Giving participants a prototype can help clients learn about the risks and challenges that still need to be resolved in developing the product.

9) Discussion guides are not written in stone.

It’s not always possible to follow the discussion guide exactly, especially when doing one to one interviews. People who are being interviewed have your undivided attention and they want to share – without being interrupted, redirected, or refocused on your specific goals. Having a clear end in mind, rather than a clear guideline that must be strictly followed, will allow you to adapt on the fly and subtly direct the conversation as needed. Following the guide too rigidly will frustrate people.

10) Know what your expertise is.

Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Our expertise includes research, analytics, and strategic advisory services which is why we carefully handpick our amazing recruiting partners. Sometimes, we do the recruitment work ourselves, particularly if we’re working with client/employee lists. These projects have led us to building our own guidelines and best practices. Most times, though, it’s more efficient to work with expert recruiters. Our recruiting partners deserve big props – they do a hard job, and they do a great job!


Ready to learn more? Download our Sklar Wilton Research Decision Wheel for a template to help you categorize decisions to ensure your research plans are focused on the right big areas. Or, learn how we helped our retail client refresh their brand and redesign their retail locations to be more relevant to younger consumers who weren’t familiar with their brand.