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3 Ways To Lead With Research as a Competitive Strategy

Get Ahead of the Competition with Research

Even when the strategy is falling in line and client trust is strong, it can be a challenge to build market research into your process. During difficult business and economic times, in which research would make the most difference, it can become the hardest time to convince clients of the need. Even when clients want more certainty, other priorities have a way of being shoved to the front of the line.

But as your goal has always been setting high standards and out-distancing the competition, truly understanding what is going on with consumers with data to back up your experience and analysis will deliver key information to help you champion your client’s goals.

Leading with research as a competitive strategy means placing customer inputs at the heart of your product or service development and delivery. While others are using anecdotal evidence, dated brand trackers or free syndicated industry reports, dynamic customer experience research specific to your client’s most pressing questions is a part of maintaining that competitive edge. This approach requires:

  1. Prioritizing and building research into your process
  2. Intentionally seeking out your blindspots
  3. Persistently exploring the truth – even when it hurts

In addition to illuminating your clients’ needs, qualitative and quantitative research can be utilized at a broader level internally to demonstrate your firm’s expertise and thought leadership in key verticals.


1) Prioritize Research

Call us biased, but it makes good business sense to protect future profits with data-driven decision making. The question is NOT, “Do we do customer experience research or not?” The question is, “Which questions do we ask and to whom?” Fundamental questions that lead to successful market research include:

  • What is already known about the issue?
  • Where are the knowledge gaps?
  • Do you need evidence to sway stakeholders?
  • What phase(s) of research must be covered (preliminary, early stages, final verification/testing)?
  • Which research methodology would be most effective?

Prioritizing research allows for a holistic approach to the stated problem. By starting with what is known, time and money can be saved by focusing the research on discovering something new. Seasoned consultants and researchers both know the main opportunities found for key growth and innovation are in the gaps. When found, these can signal huge untapped markets, product pivots, messaging opportunities, and more. If a company is really lucky, the gap will be a white space in the market where not even a competitor has an offering.

While it can be easy to identify a specific phase of product or service development, finding the right methodology can be a bit more nuanced. Whether the client needs preliminary ideation, product/service definition, prototype testing, design feedback, end-stage validation, or commercialization plans, getting clear on this phase should always happen before choosing the methodology. 

For example, qualitative research, including user experience (UX) or customer experience (CX) research) can help deeply explore target customer expectations, as well as tease out product and service innovations for greater uptake. This can be particularly useful throughout product development stages. Quantitative and online surveys provide confidence before going to market, or in the case that investors must be convinced, hard numbers showing the probability of success. A blend of qualitative and quantitative projects may be the best approach. By including both methodologies, researchers access hard numerical data that is enriched with deeper verbatim insights.

2) Understand Blindspots – Yours and Others’

Regardless of which research method(s) you chose – and that may change depending on the project – the purpose is to expand understanding of the customer so that brands are more in tune and on message than their competitors. It’s human to make assumptions – especially when we are industry experts, brand executives, or trusted consultants. But we all have blind spots. Opening an engaging conversation with all parties about what these blind spots might be can create the best environment for thinking about research and achieving significant brand breakthroughs. A competitive strategy that minimizes blind spots through practical research ultimately provides valuable insights that guide your strategic decision-making more efficiently than a competitor that does not.

3) Tell the Truth, NOT Just What Stakeholders Want to Hear

Far too often stakeholders only want to hear good news and things that confirm current plans. Stakeholders may want to either skip the research and go with their gut or influence the research and questions so that they get the answer they want. But this can be dangerous. Doing customer experience research before a product or services launches may be viewed as an optional expense. But when weighed against the potential loss for getting it all wrong, the benefits outweigh the risk. Discovering flaws or opportunities before launch can seriously mitigate loss or amplify wins.

Great consultants stay objective and ensure that research is done appropriately to uncover actionable truth. The best outcome is research that tells the truth rather than just what we or our clients want to hear. This is only possible if the research is focused on discovering the truth of consumer feedback.

Fast Tracking Success

Business is moving fast. Market disruptors, challenger brands, and market shifts create an intensely competitive environment. Brands look to strong strategists and consultants to help them fast track their success and create brand wins. Adding research as a part of your system for success is a strong move. Research partners who can help you keep these fundamentals at the core of business strategy and advisory will keep you focused on your expertise throughout the project. Keeping these three standards as your guide will help you deliver that competitive edge for maximum business impact no matter what the project.

Ag Access is your trusted research logistics ally in the agricultural and animal health space.
Contact us today to see how we can help your research plans.


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