Before undertaking the consumer facing research programme, we entered a consultation phase where we spoke to new and existing clients with an investment in the mobile internet space. Although it produces no visible outputs, we view it as an integral part of the research programme.
There are six main reasons underpinning our enthusiasm for the consultation phase of research. These are
- Create awareness – It isn’t a case of direct selling, but by speaking to people and putting it on their radar, it increases the likelihood of knowledge of the project spreading among those that might have an interest in investing in it
- Humanise the relationship – As a company, we always offer bespoke research designed to best meet specific needs. We don’t do “black boxes”. In order to provide this, it is important to have a relationship with the organisations we work with, and not just be a disembodied voice on the telephone or signature at the end of an email. This process helps us humanise and deepen our relationships, which in turn improve the quality of our work
- Gauge potential interest – We may think we have a fantastic idea for a project, but it is only a viable proposition if there is a market for it. The consultation process helps project this.
- Test hypotheses – Before we go into the consultation phase, we have a broad idea of the topics we think are relevant to cover, and the key issues in the space. The consultations help us test these, and enable us to know whether our perceptions of the major trends are correct
- Synthesise different perspectives – Nevertheless, we are a single organisation and our perspective is limited. By speaking to organisations across different industries, sectors and functions, we expose ourselves to a multitude of different perspectives on similar issues. These can be synthesised to give a more rounded viewpoint.
- Gather additional intelligence – Of course, a benefit of the consultation process is that we get to learn how organisations think, what they know, what they don’t know and what they’re interested in. This is fantastically beneficial, but it shouldn’t be a one-way delivery. Consultation meetings are reciprocal – we gain intelligence but, as mentioned below, we also give and offer a clear benefit.
The discussions we had with our consultation partners were extremely beneficial, and we’d like to thank the following 23 organisations for their time and inputs: 3, BBC, BSkyB, BT, Carphone Warehouse, Channel 4, Garmin, Global Radio, Google, IAB, IPC Media, ITV, MBlox, Microsoft Advertising, MTV, NBC Universal, Ofcom, Orange, Saffron Digital, Sony Ericsson, UKTV, Vodafone and Yahoo!
In order to optimise the effectiveness of the consultation phase, we offer the following five recommendations
- Segment, target and prioritise potential partners: There is a large base of potential organisations to consult. Not all organisations within the sphere of interest of the project will be interested, while some organisations will be more relevant than others. Decisions need to be taken over which types of organisation would benefit most from a project, and these should be contacted first
- Speak to the right people – Rather than speak to organisations, we speak to individuals within organisations. Depending on the nature of the project, it may be more relevant to speak to someone with a particular focus – whether research, strategy, sales, branding, product development or advertising.
- Offer a clear benefit – Some people have the generosity, curiosity and available time to arrange a meeting without something in return. But most people we know in client-side organisations are exceptionally busy, and receive a lot of offers and invitations. To stand out as an attractive proposition, a clear and relevant benefit is required.
- Manage expectations – It is unlikely that the benefit offered will be a full report and debrief for free. Therefore, expectations of what the consultation is about need to be managed. What you ask of a consultation partner, and what you provide in return, should be clearly and unambiguously specified
- Focus the consultation – A consultation over the mobile internet space, for example, has the potential to be extremely wide-reaching. Therefore, a structure is needed for the consultation – areas to be discussed should be clearly structured – both in relation to the industry of the consultation partner, and the evolving focus of the project as a whole
Once the consultation phase is complete, we can then hone our research objectives and programme, and begin our primary research.