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Best Practices for Aligning Research Projects to Answer Pressing Business Questions

How to Keep Research Fresh and On-Point

Companies are made up of people and, just like people, can get into a rut. That can be applied to any practice area, including research.

Any number of processes and procedures and practices may work for a long time, then slowly – or sometimes suddenly – they don’t. “Slowly” can be seen in a gradual decline in accuracy, which may be accompanied by an equally gradual awareness that something needs to change. But what? All too often, the response is to do what’s been done before, but do it more often or faster, perhaps with a tweak or two.

“Suddenly” seemingly happens all at once, often when researchers are ready to present their findings, and it becomes glaringly apparent that the research did little to zero in on the actual business problem they were assigned to solve. Either way, it’s late in the game, and something needs to change.

Old habits die hard, and a long-term relationship with a research organization can foster a false sense of confidence in research outcomes, especially when those outcomes have been reliably actionable in the past. But all things change, and while the pace of that change will vary, it is constant. Teams, on both the client and vendor sides, lose people and add new ones, impacting capacity and expertise. Past methodologies that were dependable for a long time may not be applicable to new issues, and ever-evolving technology that may provide better results may go unutilized or even unnoticed.

So, what is going wrong?

Asking the Wrong Questions

Matching research methodology and approach to specific business problems is crucial. Every industry has its own unique and specific concerns, and engaging a research firm with proven expertise in that industry increases the odds of generating relevant and reliable data. Asking hard, succinct industry-specific questions upfront will help determine the right match between information seeker and information provider.

Asking the Right Questions in the Wrong Way and at the Wrong Time

Asking large-scale corn farmers in Kansas even highly relevant questions in the middle of August is not going to elicit viable answers. Late summer is crucial for those producers, and the work that goes into working combines, trips to the co-op, equipment maintenance and issues – and more! – goes on for weeks on end. Obviously, tending to such grueling and time-sensitive activities is going to be much more highly prioritized than answering survey questions. A seasoned agricultural researcher knows that. They also know industry jargon, so asking the right question at the right time and in the right way signals respect for the producer and increases the likelihood of a successful engagement.

Asking the Wrong Person the Right Questions

Gathering reliable data can mean addressing a variety of audiences, and each of those audiences’ responses may be relevant to overall research goals. Think, though, about what questions would be appropriate for a property owner, a rep for a large ag concern, a mill operator, or employees of those entities, and how their answers will vary. Only a research support vendor with expertise in respondent research and proprietary databases can accurately target key participants with questions that are not only most relevant to them but ask them in such a way as to elicit the most useful responses and insights.

Many aspects of the agricultural industry are forever tied to elements beyond man’s control. The seasons, weather, and even markets will progress and operate as they will. However, one aspect that is firmly in human hands is identifying problems, gathering data that will help solve them, and interpreting and presenting that information quickly, reliably, and accurately. No aspect of that endeavor is a small task, so engaging researchers who are not only experienced but cognizant of the constantly changing ways in which their expertise and talents can be used is the best practice of all when it comes to researching all things ag.

How can Ag Access help? Participant show rates have the power to make or break a qualitative research study. It takes expert collaboration to design an effective qualitative research program, recruit the right people, and nail down interview day logistics. Explore how Ag Access’s carefully managed research process nets real results for an agriculture consultant.

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