When it comes to market research, final reports are too often left to collect dust on a shelf or clog an inbox with files too big to download.  It’s easy to suffer under the “thud effect” of too much data and not enough data-driven direction.  End-of-project data dumps from a research vendor are an obvious disservice to a client, but they’re also hugely unfair to research respondents—the human beings who took the time to provide insights and/or to interact with a brand, a product, an organization.

“The surest way to remedy the situation is to stop ordering research projects, and start establishing research partnerships.

Research partners move beyond the role of “data acquisition experts” and become “business co-strategists”—fully aware of their clients’ culture, pain points, internal hurdles, and soaring aspirations. In essence, a research partnership requires taking the traditional client/vendor relationship and stretching it at both ends.

This involves building in time at the beginning to allow for a thorough review of institutional knowledge, data sources, and active hypotheses.

It also means stretching the end of the project beyond delivery of the report to the creation and, ideally, implementation of the insights.

As a result, research partners become invested not only in your research, but ultimately in your success.  They also become more flexible and more proactive.

A research partner is empowered to identify your knowledge gaps. Because they’re informed of your strategy and immersed in your world, research partners keep a lookout for missing information –not as up sell opportunities, but as insurance that the research will be as actionable as possible.

A research partner continuously follows the thread. Research partners understand how your initiatives link together and they proactively make strategic connections across projects and insights.  They’re equal parts historian and futurist.

Yes, research partnerships require a different kind of appetite. This is research analogous to the slow food movement: It’s about gaining rich insight (not amassing data that just leaves you feeling bloated and ultimately unsatisfied).  It’s about shaking off the happy meal boxes of “goes nowhere” research and focusing on long-lead strategic work that results in real impact.