[Source: This article was published in searchenginejournal.com By Ron Lieback - Uploaded by the Association Member: Deborah Tannen]

The power of blogging is endless.

This sentiment is especially true for SMBs, which typically don’t have the financial backing of major businesses that can provide an endless flow of appealing video or podcast content.

A company blog has one overall goal that results in increased revenue: to create energy around what I call “TAR” – a concept that I blogged about before, TAR standing for Trust, Authority and Reputation.

Once these three elements are established, the blogging effort’s ROI over time will far outweigh that of any paid marketing campaign.

Unfortunately, companies and digital marketing agencies fail to experience the true power of blogging.

Either they are non-believers who don’t understand that a blog is the ultimate builder of TAR, or they do believe but constantly struggle with finding the perfect writer.

Companies can source a blog writer in three ways: a digital marketing agency, a freelancer, or in-house.

The typical digital marketing agency has a few in-house writers who may have to blog about various unrelated subjects. The outcome is never optimal here.

Think about creating content for a finance client one moment, followed by a pet supply company the next, then an aftermarket auto accessories business. This will soon cause burnout unless the writers are magically proficient and passionate about all of those subjects.

17 Non Negotiable Skills for Blog Writers in Any Business

When seeking a freelancer or in-house writer, the search is much easier; you search through numerous websites or place a hiring ad. But this situation also arrives with some issues.

Reputable freelancers and a dedicated in-house blogger can become pricey, And, unlike in most agency situations, the blogger may not have an SEO expert to enhance his or her work.

How about editors? Most freelancers don’t have editors.

These issues have helped develop my agency’s business model, which relies on freelance bloggers of various passions. I basically find and match writers to clients.

The client receives triple the value because they not only get a writer skilled in their industry/niche but also get all the SEO enhancements and a unique seven-layer editing process.

Whether you run an agency that offers blogs or a company searching for a freelancer or in-house blogger, the following 17 non-negotiable skills are crucial for acquiring and retaining quality talent, and increasing company revenue through one of the strongest forms of content marketing.

1. Passion & Proficiency

When blog writers have a passion for the subject and are both proficient in the craft of writing and the subject itself, the quality of work increases dramatically. This provides a stress-free environment for both the writer and the business.

Those that are passionate about a subject are typically more knowledgable, which keeps the material factual and trustworthy. And you can tell a passionate writer from a fake within a few sentences.

Sure, some of the best writers can be experts on subjects with zero passion for them, but the quality will never match that of one who has both proficiency and passion for the subject.

When my agency searches for new writers to cover a subject, this is the first criteria.

Don’t get me wrong-a few of what I call “factotum” writers exist that can just do it all because they have such a passion for writing they’re willing to spend extra time learning about the subject and eventually become super passionate about it.

But these writers are tough to find – and if you do find them, hold onto them.

Leadership mentor Michael Hyatt’s supports this concept in his latest book, “Free to Focus”. Hyatt says that for true success in life and careers, one must find their true north on the “Freedom Compass” – a productivity tool he has created that helps evaluate tasks, activities, and opportunities.

The true north of this compass is called “The Desire Zone.” This is where passion and proficiency intersect, and people can make their most significant contributions to “business, family, community…and maybe the world.”

The same goes for a blogger with passion and proficiency for both the subject and writing.

Expert Tip

When hiring an agency that will offer blogging, or a freelance/in-house blogger, ask some simple questions first.

If you’re using an agency, ask for details about their writers.

  • Are they in-house?
  • What industries do they blog about now?
  • What do they know about my industry?
  • And are they passionate about it?
  • What work can I see that they previously completed?

If you’re hiring a freelance or in-house blogger, simply seek writers that are interested in your industry. Then ask questions like above.

If reputability is a factor within the industry, simply use Google News with the author’s name in quotations.

For example, I’m a 10-year veteran of the motorcycle industry and have written thousands of blogs. A quick Google News search of “Ron Lieback” and you’ll find over 4,200 blogs – most from the motorcycle industry.

2. Meets Deadlines

A blog’s success thrives on frequent and consistent delivery, which means the writers must meet deadlines. This is where smart leadership takes over.

Don’t iron fist and demand deadlines; rather, influence the blog writers by making them know they are part of the success story.

When revenue increases and a client can directly attribute it to blogging, that writer should feel a sense of pride. Sometimes they don’t, and you must reinforce that.

Expert Tip

Always bump up the deadline for writers by a few days. For some, I go as far as a week in advance. Things happen in life, whether the writer gets sick or something else.

Make sure you have a buffer zone for them and you. This saved me a few times; during one situation a writer became extremely sick. I was able to redelegate the work to another writer and continue fulfilling the client’s content calendar.

3. Timely Communication

Besides meeting deadlines, writers must also have timely communication.

By timely I don’t mean immediately, but at least within 24 hours for emails and three hours for calls/texts.

When the blog-creation process is proactive, there’s no need for reactive actions, including immediate answering of an email.

I’m a firm believer and practitioner of only answering emails three times a day. To remain in à la Cal Newport “Deep Focus” mode, I also keep all notifications off when working, and keep calls silenced.

Expert Tip

Explain the importance of timely communication up front with your bloggers, along with the criteria of when to expect a response.

Explain how this timeliness will create less stress, which equates to happiness in both work and personal situations.

Timely Communication

4. Clean Spelling & Grammar

There’s a huge difference between “colon” and “cologne.” You want to smell like the latter, for sure.

Always spellcheck everything, and make sure someone else edits besides the blogger.

The best writers in the world are created by the best editors. Mistakes will always occur – the goal is to correct them before anyone sees them.

This also goes for proper grammar. I’m not only talking about punctuation and proper use of adjectives, but also the use of words.

For example, further and farther are commonly misused. The first one is used for time references, and the second is used for distance.

Another is fewer and less; always use fewer to describe plural words and less to describe singular words: That used Ducati has fewer miles, but less beauty.

Expert Tip

Send your bloggers two essential texts on grammar – the iconic “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White, and also “The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need”, by Susan Thurman.

Also, have them use the free version of Grammarly.

5. Organization Is Vital

The days of the unorganized writer have passed – at least when delivering value to a client through consistent and frequent blogging.

All modern writers should educate themselves in the art of self-organization, whether that means blocking certain hours every day for blog work or writing down the weekly assignments across a whiteboard.

Whatever works – just as long as an organized system is present.

You want to know have trust in your bloggers, and not have to worry about them slacking here or there or forgetting an assignment. It’s also the leader’s job, whether the manager of an agency or company, to explain the importance of organization.

Expert Tip

Have bloggers handwrite their week’s tasks in a daily planner. Provide one if they don’t have one.

I’m not about to explain the psychology behind it, but physically writing stuff down helps me organize better than any digital planner. Writers will likely appreciate the handwriting anyway.

6. Understands the Audience

For writers to blog effectively, they must understand the target audience.

You’ll explain things much differently to an audience nearing retirement versus a teenager. Again, agency/company leaders will need to provide this education to the blogger.

This is where marketing materials need to be shared, and CEOs need to engage with the blogger or agency. Also, sometimes there are various target audiences due to where a prospect is within the sales funnel (more in point 16 below), so it’s a leader’s duty to explain this.

Expert Tip

Bloggers should be in constant conversation with the sales team, which is typically closest to the client and understands the client’s needs and questions.

This will help the blogger expand on topics and provide more value to readers.

7. Consistent with the Delivery of Voice & Style

Once bloggers understand the target audience, they must either continue or develop the company’s voice and style. All blogs should have a consistent voice.

Don’t be funny one day, satirical the next, and serious a week later. Keep consistency at the forefront.

Always create content in the same style, whether we’re talking about style guides or the way you create your content.

I like short, choppy sentences, and short paragraphs. I think it’s easier on the eyes and allows readers to digest quickly.

Others like longer sentences and chunky paragraphs.

Whatever you choose, stick with it.

In regards to style, some like Associated Press (AP), and others like the American Psychology Association (APA). Again, whatever you choose, stick with it.

Expert Tip

Most copy on the web is written in AP styling, which is what newspapers and most magazines use. Send your blogger the latest AP Stylebook PDF or, better yet, the book version so they can always refer to it.

Another great reference book that covers AP and other styles like APA is “The best punctuation book, period.” by June Casagrande.

These two books should always be at arm’s length.

8. Open to Edits

This is vital, especially when working with a new client or business.

In the beginning, the blogger needs to fully focus on learning everything about that business, from the style/tone to the target audience.

In an agency situation, it’s a leader’s duty to explain this process to the client. I ask my blogging clients to be ruthless during the first few blog edits – not only for factual information but voice and style.

Be wary; the point of contact in the business might want to write for himself or herself instead of the company’s target audience. This is something that also should be discussed before any writing is completed.

Expert Tip

At a minimum, have two extra sets of eyes on the blogs after they are written.

Even those with zero editing skills can pick up a missed fact or spelling error.

The more the better; I demand three separate sets of eyes at my agency after a writer hands in a blog, and we still sometimes find mistakes.

Open to Edits

9. Creates 110% Original Content

Yeah – 110 percent. In theory, anything over 100 percent is impossible, but using 110 stresses that blog writers should strive for complete originality.

I’ve read numerous articles on the same subject, and sometimes they sound so similar it’s as if they all just had different titles. This happens all the time in the digital marketing world, and more so in the world of powersports/motorsports journalism.

This is the quantity over quality factor, and some writers are just trying to pump out endless blogs in hopes of making a positive impact on search engines. But one original article that pukes originality will overcome 10 worthless ones.

Expert Tip

When you first hire a blogger, do yourself a favor and copy/paste the first few paragraphs into Google. I only found a writer to be plagiarizing once, but I would have likely lost a client due to it.

Make sure you explain there is no mercy for plagiarism. I only do this for the first or second blogs – after that I know I can trust writers because I only work with those that share my values for honesty and trust.

Plagiarism – even the most minimal version of it – will immediately sever (not severe!) the relationship.

10. Content Lacks Fluff

This is blogging – not the sometimes cheesy copywriting found within product or category copy.

Remember, all blog efforts should support the overall mission of TAR: Trust, Authority and Respect.

Kill the fluff and sales-forward copy. This is blogging that’s built to establish TAR.

Expert Tip

Bloggers should never overuse adjectives or adverbs. Most are useless, though some may be a major help.

Have your bloggers read Hemmingway – the master of simplicity.

11. Understands SEO Basics

The more SEO a blogger knows the better. But again, as point #1 states, it’s better to have passion for the subject and proficiency for writing over SEO.

They should understand – and learn, if need be – keyword research and the use of related keywords.

Also, bloggers should understand the importance of header tags, and how to effectively write titles and meta descriptions (character count, keywords, etc.).

Expert Tip

Some of the best bloggers around know squat about SEO.

That’s why I’ve created a system in my agency that provides writers with “SEO Content Guidelines” for each blog. It includes things such as:

  • The optimized title.
  • Related keywords.
  • Recommended word count.
  • The top URLs ranking for the topic we’re after.

I tell bloggers not to mimic the competition, but rather understand what the competition is doing, and do it better. These are best created by an SEO with some creative writing skills.

Always ask the writer if they can create a better headline – and maybe ask for two so you can A/B test it.

12. Knows & Strengthens Company USPs Through Blogging

One of my agency’s unique selling positions (USP) is that it’s an SEO-driven content marketing agency with a focus on written content that helps a business refine and strengthen its USPs.

So when my writers create blogs for my agency’s website, this USP is reinforced. The same goes for my client’s content.

Every blogger should know the company’s or their client’s USPs, and strengthen them through blogging.

Again, this is on the leadership team to make sure the blogger knows just what makes the business or agency’s client stand apart from the rest, and this is why USPs are so vital for success.

Expert Tip

Companies typical transform over time, which either pulls them away from a former USP or develop new ones.

To truly gain an edge with blogging, revisit older blogs and either refresh them with the newer USPs, or rewrite/delete them if they exploit an older USP.

Knows Strengthens Company USPs Through Blogging

13. Competitive Landscape Knowledge

Bloggers should have a deep knowledge of the business’s competitive landscape. This will further educate them, and allow them to witness and, better yet, predict future trends.

But take warning – nothing should be replicated unless you’re in the breaking news industry where stories will naturally repeat.

Expert Tip

Have your blogger follow a news blog within the vertical he or she is writing about, and follow the top ranking blogs.

The easiest way is to simply google “(industry term) news”. A good example is “SEO news,” which brings up quite a reputable publication for SEO.

14. Willing to Promote & Share Personally

If writers are dedicated to their work, they will have no issues sharing the blogs they have created across their personal social media platforms. This also goes for the blogs without their bylines – most businesses blog under the company name.

Everyone knows the power of social and sharing, and having bloggers pitch in will help the blog’s mission with establishing the company’s TAR.

It also shows that the blogger values the business he or she is writing for – and that helps strengthen the relationship between blogger and company, or blogger and agency and company.

Be warned, though; some clients respectfully sign non-disclosures. If an NDA is present, sharing simply can’t happen.

Expert Tip

If you have multiple bloggers, provide incentives to those who get the most shares over a period of time.

An example will be a $50 gift card to the blogger who gets the most shares over a quarter or so.

15. Bring Possible Solutions with Problems

This point was created for the leadership team.

Writers may have an issue with a blog’s direction, or with the criticism that some businesses have with voice or style. Don’t let them just whine about these types of issues.

If a problem exists, make sure the bloggers know that a possible solution must arrive with complaints. This will make the future workflow smoother, and less stressful.

And both of those concepts equate to higher quality writing, and, ultimately, retention of blogging services.

Expert Tip

Have bloggers “sleep on” a problem before presenting it. As humans, we get caught in the moment and let our emotions guide the conversation.

Usually, after some time, the problem is much smaller than first assumed and dissolves itself. This is especially true for writers; I know from experience.

Two decades ago my emotions would always get the best of me over criticism on a piece of writing. Now, after getting away from the situation and letting my mind subconsciously do some thinking, most criticism is warranted.

16. Understands the Basic Sales Process

This is crucial – the more blog writers know about sales, the more intimate they can get with the businesses’ audience.

Talking with the sales team will help with this information. Bloggers should also know the sales process, including the sales funnel.

Knowledge of the sales funnel will add more granular details about the target audience, allowing the blogger to further expand on the content and make that business a more authoritative voice in its industry.

Expert Tip

At my agency, I think in terms of where prospects are at within the sales funnel in regards to the content I produce. Most blog campaigns fall into the following model:

  • 50% written for newbies: they don’t know much about your business or industry but are learning.
  • 25% for intermediate: they are educated, but need that extra bit of incentive to become a client.
  • 25% for experts: they are extremely knowledgeable about your industry/business, and are just looking for the right partner that will help scale their business. These blogs also speak to the existing clients through use in newsletters; this shows your clients that your business thrives to stay current and remain authoritative in the vertical.

I can use a quick example from my agency’s blog:

  • 50% of the blogs are for those just learning about content creation and SEO.
  • 25% are for those who understand content creation and SEO but are searching for reputable help.
  • 25% for the experts, who are typically CMOs or SEO managers that are looking for immediate partners.

This is based on the current sales model, but that model is fluid and can change within weeks.

Understands the Basic Sales Process

17. Constant Flow of Education

I can never stress enough about the constant need for ongoing education within anything, from career development to personal happiness.

This is especially true for writers, who can quickly become stagnant if always writing about the same things. The more a writer reads, the better a writer will become. There’s no debating this.

Expert Tip

Send every blogger two essential texts on writing: “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser, and “Writing Tools” by Roy Peter Clark. And have them allocate at least a half-hour every day to read the latest blogs that discuss SEO writing.

Concluding Thoughts

The point of a blog is to establish a company’s TAR – Trust, Authority and Respect. But you just can’t hire any blogger or an agency; you must find one that aligns with your business’s core values and will provide the highest ROI possible.

Through two decades of writing professionally, and owning an agency that makes roughly 80% of its revenue from blogging, the skills above are an absolute must.

Remember, though, that everyone can acquire and build upon their skill levels. Once you have a blogger that excels in all 17 above, that’s when you can get them on autopilot and use more of your time to do what you do best.

Categorized in Business Research

Source: This article was Published bmmagazine.co.uk - Contributed by Member: Robert Hensonw

The advancement of technology has given us so many ways of finding out what we need to do to sustain businesses of different kinds.

Regardless of the differences that are unique to each business, one thing remains important – knowing what your customer base wants, and then work on fulfilling their needs in order to survive the competition.

With the era of monopolies now gone, it makes it very essential to on market research. That is why the major companies in the world employ the services of marketing teams and spend millions of dollars annually in recruiting research firms. Here are some reasons why you need to spend that money on research.

To have a better idea of what you are going to do

This may sound generic as ever, but the thing is – it shows you the importance of conducting research in the first place. The worst mistake you can make as an entrepreneur is shooting in the dark – you simply waste your time and resources without anything to show for it. You may make mistakes along the way even if you have sufficient information, but it is better to be prepared.

Whatever decision you make for the business, it is important to do your homework. From sourcing for suppliers, getting potential clients, and even developing the range of your products and services. It can also help in clearing up any queries that you have while still providing you with sufficient first-hand strategy that helps in progressing the business, also known as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).

It helps you to stay focused

Let us be honest here – marketing research and marketing, in general, is not an easy venture to get into, especially with all the multitasking that happens today. Even as a business owner, you might find yourself trying to focus on multiple projects, playing various roles within your organization, while still running the business and trying to help it succeed.

However, when you have done sufficient market research, it should inform you of what your consumers want. This helps you make a list of priorities you need to accomplish, which in turn helps you in managing your time as effectively as possible. It also gives you a guide on both the long and short term strategies you need to put in place, which helps you feel more organized, less frazzled and overwhelmed in the long-term.

Gives you better insight on your customers

Regardless of whether your business has been in the game for a long time or is starting out, target customers should always be a priority, as they are either potential or loyal customers. Good market research strategies will clear doubts you may have on the identification of these customers, including their gender, ages, locations, and so on.

The more analysis you do on their spending habits and products they frequently purchase, for instance, the better you can understand what makes them tick. This allows you to focus on manufacturing certain products or giving certain services in order to retain them as loyal customers.

Helps in understanding customer behavior

Aside from getting to know potentially loyal customers, you can use market research to find out some requirements of the customers. The improvement of technology has given us some useful advanced software tools such as Google Analytics, which assist you to understand the behavioral patterns of your customers. Oncetheir spending behavior is understood, you can then refine and customize various products for them.

These software tools can use the data in two forms. One is tracking the spending habits of the customer when they are online, which is a real-time analysis (it particularly works if you have an online shop), and the other is to check their past spending behavior to see if there are any patterns involved.

Helps in analyzing competitors

If you have ever read the book ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu, it states that for you defeat your enemy in battle, it is important to know yourself and know them, and they will never defeat you. This statement is true; not just in war, but also in other aspects of life – especially when it comes to running a business.

Monopolies do not exist anymore in this day and age, so every business has fierce competition all around it. This should motivate you to do adequate research on the market as well as your competitors, and you may learn some strategies from them that can either push you ahead or reduce the growth of your competitors.

Even more important, it will help you to keep your growth consistent through the improvement of your services and products.

Gives you adequate information for selling and forecasting activities

The most important focus of sales forecasts is helping a business keep adequate inventory, an action which regulates the balance of demand and supply. The only way to find this out is through doing research. After doing a sales forecast you can then begin to plan for alternative goods you can sell, or find new methods of selling the goods. In addition, you may have consumer bases in other countries; market research allows you to find them and tailor make strategies for those areas.

Reduces losses and risk on a significant level

The best approach to use would be a contingency approach. At the back of your mind, you remember that the business may not do well due to factors that may be beyond your control, or others may be mistakes you will learn along the way.

Market research proves to be effective at reducing risks that you incur or the losses your business may suffer, as long as it has concrete findings to back it. It helps in avoiding mistakes such as poor pricing methods and poor marketing so that your business has a fighting chance of thriving.

Final thoughts

Making your business succeed in the face of increasing competition is not an easy thing, and that is why market research exists – to enable you to find weaknesses you should improve on. With these tips, investing in proper research is justified, and it will give your company great benefits.

Source: This article was published managementhelp.org - Contributed by Member: David J. Redcliff

Planning Your Business Research

The following information is intended to give the reader some general guidance about planning a basic research effort in their organization. The rest of the information in the section presents an overview of methods used in business, how to apply them, and how to analyze and interpret and report results.

Research Plans Depend on Information You Need and Available Resources

Often, organization members want to know everything about their products, services, programs, etc. Your research plans depend on what information you need to collect in order to make major decisions about a product, service, program, etc. Usually, you're faced with a major decision due to, e.g., ongoing complaints from customers, need to convince funders/bankers to loan money, unmet needs among customers, the need to polish an internal process, etc.

The more focused you are about what you want to gain by your research, the more effective and efficient you can be in your research, the shorter the time it will take you and ultimately the less it will cost you (whether in your own time, the time of your employees and/or the time of a consultant).

There are trade-offs, too, in the breadth and depth of information you get. The more breadth you want, usually the less depth you'll get (unless you have a great deal of resources to carry out the research). On the other hand, if you want to examine a certain aspect of a product, service, program, eta., in great detail, you will likely not get as much information about other aspects as well.

For those starting out in research or who have very limited resources, they can use various methods to get a good mix of breadth and depth of information. They can understand more about certain areas of their products, services, programs, eta., and not go bankrupt doing so.

Key Considerations to Design Your Research Approach

Good business research is about collecting the information you really need, when you need it, to answer important questions and make important business decisions. What is the key to doing good business research? To make the best use of your time, get the information you really need, and make the best business decision, consider the following key questions before doing your research:

1. Why am I doing this research? What important decision am I trying to make?

Always have an important decision in mind when you are doing your research. You are too busy to waste time collecting information to help make a decision that is not vital to your business, or worse yet – collecting information with no purpose in mind. With a clear decision in mind, you will be able to keep your research focused.

2. When do I need to make my decision?

Timing is everything in business. Having 60% of the questions answered in time to make your decision is better than having 100% of the answers after the deadline’s passed. But on the other hand, if your important decision really can wait, there’s no sense in rushing into things and acting on less information that you might have been able to get if you had taken your time. So you need to have a clear sense of when you need to make your important decision.

3. What questions do I really need to answer to make my decision? What information do I really need to answer my questions?

This is where many people get lost in their research. What do you really need to know to be able to make your business decision? Do you need to know a little about a bunch of things, or a lot of a few things? What kind of information do you need? Numbers? Opinions? And how much is enough? (A good rule of thumb is, the more important the decision, the better the information you should collect.) How you answer these questions will have a big impact on where you are going to have to go to get your information, and how you are going to get it.

4. Where is the best place (and who are the best people) to get the information I really need?

Overall, information sources can be broken down into two kinds: primary and secondary. Primary sources are those people and organizations in your marketplace, for example, your potential customers, suppliers, and competitors. Secondary sources are reports, articles, and statistics about the people in your marketplace.

While there are exceptions, it is usually safe to start with your secondary sources, because the information’s usually readily available at low or no cost. Once you have gotten what you can from the secondary sources, ask yourself the question, “Do I really need more information to make my decision?” If you really do, turn your attention to your primary information sources to get the last vital pieces of information you need. But often you can get what you really need from secondary sources.

The real challenge for you with secondary information sources is not having too little information. You will likely be faced with a large amount of information for any decision. The real challenge will be to selectively pick the best from what is available. And it is always a good idea to use at least two good sources of information for any decision and to make sure that these different sources agree with each other.

If you have done things right up to this point, selecting your sources – primary and secondary – should not be too hard. You will know what decision you are trying to make and when you need to make it, and you will know what information you really need to make that decision. And if you can explain this to the reference librarian at your local library, they will get you pointed in the right direction. It is worth noting that many people go “researching” way before they really know what they are researching – and they waste a lot of time in the process.

5. What options do I have to collect that information?

With secondary information sources, the collection is straightforward. You go to the source (library, resource center or website) and ask for the information. With primary information sources, deciding upon the right method is a little more involved. When considering your options, always remember to keep your business decision, timing and the information you really need clearly in your mind. These will help you to make the best decision.

6. What resources do I have to collect that information? Who or what can help me?

You are almost ready to go out and do your research. One final consideration is about the resources you have, or have access to. These resources can include:

  • The time you are willing to commit
  • Friends and family members who are willing and able to help you
  • The money you are willing and able to spend
  • Access to the internet, your trainer
  • Other resource people in your community like the reference librarian at your local library

7. Given the time, options, and resources I have, what is the best way for me to get the information I need?

Now it is time to make a decision about how you are going to do your research. This is not so much a separate step as it is something that will emerge as you go through the earlier steps. Still, it is good to stop and think it through one last time before you move forward.

8. What am I actually going to do and when?

Okay – it is time to commit to a plan of action. Create a business research action plan to collect your thoughts.

Now you are ready to consider various methods to collect and analyze your data.

For the Category of Business Research:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Categorized in Business Research

 Source: This article was published smallbusiness.chron.com By Sam Ashe-Edmunds - Contributed by Member: Barbara Larson

Research on aspects related your business, such as your target customer, marketplace trends, production processes, and financial practices, can help you predict trends, project sales, spot opportunities, and avoid potential problems. Understanding the nature of different types of business research will help you use data to maximize your sales and profits.

Reasons for Business Research

Business research can help you determine what potential customers want, which can guide you toward the development of better products and services. It can keep you abreast of what your competition is doing and help you spot marketplace and industry trends. Research lets you analyze how your departments are performing, and then compare their performance against projections to determine if you need to make adjustments.

Types of Business Research

Employ a variety of business research types to maximize the benefit that data can provide your company. Conduct customer surveys and focus groups of potential customers. Join your industry’s trade association to access its research studies. Perform budget variance analyses every quarter to determine if your revenue and expense projections were correct or if you need to adjust your budget. Keep tabs on the competition to determine if they’ve changed their products, where they’re advertising, what they are charging, and where they are selling. Check your website traffic data to determine who’s visiting your site, what pages they’re accessing, and which keywords bring people to your site. Sites such as Quantcast and Alexa can give you valuable data about your competitors’ website traffic.

Choosing Methodologies

Depending on your budget, you can conduct research in a variety of ways. Online surveys can provide you with quick, easy-to-understand data. Websites such as SurveyMonkey let you administer short surveys for free, charging a fee for more expansive surveys. Telephone surveys of current customers let you spend more time and solicit open-ended questions. A focus group lets you get a small group of potential or current customers together to discuss their ideas, suggestions and thoughts in ways that produce the information you might not have considered. Mail surveys cost more, but let you reach a large number of highly targeted recipients, depending on what mailing list you use. Analyzing your sales by distribution channel, territory, sales rep, price point, margin and volumes helps you determine where you should focus your marketing efforts.

Outsourcing the Work

If you aren’t expert at conducting research or don’t have the staff to perform this type of work, consider hiring a research firm to assist you. They can give you a list of options, allowing you to increase your research effort as your budget allows. Research firms have access to tools such as databases, phone banks, and email programs that you might not be able to afford, helping you gather data you otherwise couldn’t.

Categorized in Business Research

Like many business leaders, Donovan Neale-May routinely seeks out information on business innovation and management trends. He reads reports from market analysis firms, white papers from companies in his field, and articles in online trade magazines. But he rarely bothers with academic business journals.

“Academic research can be helpful, but it tends to be overly complex, hard to digest, and not backed by real quantitative insights from customer populations or engagements,” says Neale-May, executive director of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, a global affinity network of more than 10,000 senior marketing executives based in San Jose, California. “There is often a disconnect between practitioners and academics, who tend to be far removed from operational complexities and market dynamics.”

Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the Chief Marketing Officer Council. “There is often a disconnect between practitioners and academics,” he says. (Source: CMO Council)

Reduce nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural farming.

Harvard Business School’s Michael W. Toffel addresses this issue in an Enhancing the Practical Relevance of Research, forthcoming in Production and Operations Management. “This is my soapbox message to academics: be more relevant,” says Toffel, the Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management and faculty chair of the HBS Business and Environment Initiative.

Toffel’s paper serves as a call to arms for scholars to conduct research that matters to managers and policymakers. “Most [business scholars] would agree that our primary duties include teaching our students and generating new knowledge in our research,” writes Toffel. “But the lack of practical relevance of much of our research might suggest that few of us also have the ambition to improve the decisions of the managers and policymakers whose actions we study.”

The consequence of the lack of relevant research is that the business world—and the rest of the world, for that matter—is losing out on some serious brainpower and analytical reason.

Consider the 2014 New York Times op-ed titled “Professors, We Need You,” in which Nicholas Kristof wrote, “Some of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.”

Or the 2015 Chronicle of Higher Educationcommentary, “Isolated Scholars: Making Bricks, Not Shaping Policy,” in which University of Michigan Professor Andrew J. Hoffman wrote, “One of the reasons (among many) that the public discourse on critical scientific issues of our day has become so confused is that too many academics, according to a 2014 study by John Besley in Science and Public Policy, do not see their role ‘as an enabler of direct public participation in decision-making through formats such as deliberative meetings, and do not believe there are personal benefits for investing in these activities.’ And yet if society is to make wise choices, those who create knowledge must move it beyond the ivory tower.”

The Priority Paradox

So why aren’t more scholars at business schools striving to make their work practically relevant? One reason is that for many, working on relevant problems has little impact on faculty members’ academic success. When it comes to making tenure, budding professors are evaluated in part on the number of papers they publish in peer-reviewed journals. Primarily written for and read by other academics, many of those journals tend to reward novelty over applicability.

In academia, “basic” research sets out to increase general knowledge of how the world works, while “applied” research sets out specifically to address a practical problem, with the intent of solving it.

That poses a potential dilemma for scholars who want to influence business practice and achieve the requisite journal publications for a successful academic career. But that balance, while challenging, is achievable.

Take HBS colleague Benjamin G. Edelman, an expert in online markets whose research focuses on consumer protection related to online businesses. “My research is made better by choosing questions that are relevant to practitioners,” says Edelman, an associate professor in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets (NOM) unit. “My intended audience includes managers at companies as well as policymakers and regulators—seeking to inform and, to be sure, persuade these folks.”

In the course of his research, Edelman has exposed numerous privacy violations by Google, led successful fights against adware and spyware companies, and coauthored multiple studies that revealed racial discrimination among Airbnb hosts and guests. He also has published numerous articles in top academic journals.

That said, he has received his share of rejection letters from journal editors who deemed his work “excessively applied.”

“It’s surely true that many academics hesitate to prepare research that is relevant to, and accessible to, practitioners,” he says. “Junior academics have to consider journal priorities in light of the unavoidable pressure to publish in top journals. Write articles that journals don’t like, then you won’t get published in top journals and be an academic for long!”

Research that targets a specific business problem runs the risk of appearing too narrow in focus to editors of general-purpose disciplinary journals, which, in the field of academia, are considered to be especially important.

“I have had papers rejected because they are ‘of interest to a specialized audience and not to a general audience,’” says Shane Greenstein, the MBA Class of 1957 Professor of Business Administration and co-chair of the HBS Digital Initiative. “The problem faced by much applied work is the forum. It often gets relegated to specialty journals, and those are considered less prestigious in some disciplines.”

That is an issue faced by researchers from many disciplines—including economics, psychology, sociology—when they do applied work, Greenstein says.

The Importance Of Spending Time With Practitioners

However, novelty and relevance need not be mutually exclusive. In “Enhancing the Practical Relevance of Research,” Toffel argues that steering research toward real-world business problems can yield both.

“Engaging with practitioners to develop relevant research not only helps improve the research but also increases the likelihood that practitioners will subsequently read and appreciate a translation of that work,” Toffel writes. “This can yield practitioner inquiries that can, in turn, provide access to new field sites and new datasets, including proprietary data that has never been shared with scholars before and can lead to novel lines of inquiry.”

Toffel, whose own research examines how companies and regulators can improve environmental management and occupational safety, offers several suggestions for how scholars can steer their research toward real-world business problems. It starts with climbing down from the ivory tower and actually spending time with business practitioners: inviting them to meet on campus, attending industry conferences, visiting their companies, interviewing them, developing a practitioner advisory team, and maybe spending some time working as a practitioner. (For his own part, Toffel worked as director of the environment, health, and safety at Jebsen & Jessen, a Singapore-based manufacturing and engineering firm, before pursuing a full-time career in academia.)

That all takes time, of course, but Toffel argues that it’s time well spent. “Given the substantial time we already invest in any research project, a few days of due diligence does not seem too high a price to pay, even in one’s pre-tenure years when the opportunity cost of time seems especially high,” he writes.

Colleague David A. Moss concurs. “The first priority should always be to identify truly important problems to work on,” says Moss, the Paul Whiton Cherington Professor of Business Administration at HBS and founder of the Tobin Project, an independent, interdisciplinary initiative that uses academic research to tackle massive real-world problems like economic inequality, national security, and government regulation. “We’ve found that working with practitioners can be enormously productive in helping to identify critical real-world problems as the basis for new research.”

Interacting with business practitioners is especially helpful in garnering new ideas for behavioral scientists like Francesca Gino, whose research deals with the reality that humans are often irrational—and the fact that the logic of real-world decisions therefore sometimes flies in the face of established economic theory.

“Most of my research projects are motivated by puzzles or strange patterns of behavior I see in the real world,” says Gino, the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration at HBS. “I’ve looked at questions like, Why is it that people often end up behaving in ways that are contrary to what they set out to do, despite their good intentions? Why is it that so many people are disengaged at work? What can leaders do to keep them engaged across time? Why is it that even people who care about morality end up behaving unethically? Why is it that people often feel inauthentic at work? What does that imply for their job satisfaction and productivity?”

Gino was motivated to investigate those questions by what she observed in organizations or society more broadly. “It is key for the research to make its way back to organizations and society: I want the answers to these questions to be known to [business] leaders and policymakers since they have the power to make changes for the better based on scientific findings.”

In 2012, Gino and several other colleagues a published an experimental study showing that organizations can encourage honest reporting on financial documents—for example, expense reports or tax forms—simply by moving the signature line to the top of the form so that signers declare they will tell the truth rather than declaring they have told the truth. In 2014, the White House assembled a cross-agency group called the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team, tasked with improving the efficacy of federal programs by leveraging the findings of behavioral science. The aforementioned study was one of the first that the team employed in a pilot test with the General Services Administration (GSA).

Vendors who make sales through the Federal Supply Schedules are required to pay an administrative fee (the Industrial Funding Fee), which is based on a fraction of their self-reported sales. To encourage more accurate self-reporting, the GSA moved the required signature box from the bottom to the top of the online payment form for a random sample of vendors. The result: The government collected an additional $1.59 million in fees within a three-month period. The median self-reported sales amount was $445 higher for those vendors signing at the top of the form.

But research doesn’t have to be explicitly applied research in order to prove practically relevant. In fact, basic research can help to predict—or even to prevent—real-world events years before they happen.

Case in point: In 1996, Max H. Bazerman and several colleagues published “Egocentric Interpretations of Fairness in Asymmetric, Environmental Social Dilemmas: Explaining Harvesting Behavior and the Role of Communication” in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. The study looked at how individual self-serving biases can blur the judgment of decision-makers, who underestimate their inability to be objective. The core ideas of that basic research led to a 1997 MIT Sloan Management Review article, The Impossibility of Auditor Independence, which argued that “it is psychologically impossible for auditors to maintain their objectivity” and that “cases of audit failure are inevitable, even with the most honest auditors.”

That article “provided the most central criticism of the auditing institution—before Enron failed [in 2001],” says Bazerman, the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration at HBS, whose research focuses on business ethics.

Let Vendors Know The Research Exists -- In Language, They Can Understand

That leads to an important point: Once a scholar has conducted research that’s germane to practitioners, it’s important to let practitioners know that the research exists.

“Ultimately, I conduct research to try to help people,” says HBS Assistant Professor Alison Wood Brooks, who studies how emotions influence workplace behavior. “I can’t help people if they don’t know about my work.”

Explaining research in person is one way to reach them.

“I make time to talk to practitioners, presenting at industry conferences, at trade association events, and in webinars; testifying to regulators, and even explaining my work one-on-one to the policy staff trying to apply the ideas,” says Ben Edelman. “It’s a big commitment, but it’s worth it.”

Many business professors do occasional consulting work for large companies, which can prove mutually beneficial in terms of identifying and fixing problems. Gino often delivers keynotes about her research at corporate events, routinely attends practitioner-only conferences, and talks about her research when teaching business leaders in the Executive Education program at HBS. In “Enhancing the Practical Relevance of Research,” Toffel notes that when he and his colleagues presented their research on occupational safety to managers at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “both they and we learned a lot.”

And let’s not forget small companies; some 90% of businesses in the United States have fewer than 20 employees, according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. “I think universities cater to recent alums and big corporations,” says Paul Davis, co-founder and CEO of Intelligent Integration Systems, a small, Boston-based analytic software company, who sought feedback from business researchers when the company was starting up in 2005. “We found it was hard for a small [company] to get much attention at big schools.”

Writing is another way to reach practitioners, which requires using language they will understand. Alas, some academic journals discourage plain communication. So while a layperson would undoubtedly understand words like “helpful,” “rule of thumb,” and “tendency to hang out with similar people,” the editor of an academic research journal might prefer the academic terms “prosocial,” “heuristic,” and “homophily”—a word that runs rampant in social science literature, but which gets the red-squiggle-underline treatment in Microsoft Word.

(Case in point, see above: “Egocentric Interpretations of Fairness in Asymmetric, Environmental Social Dilemmas: Explaining Harvesting Behavior and the Role of Communication” vs. “The Impossibility of Auditor Independence.”)

“[Journal] editors and reviewers have sometimes asked me to reduce the use of informal language and substitute ‘scientific’ language,” says Greenstein. “Sometimes it is annoying because the informal writing covers topics that could be useful to others, but that is just the way it goes.”

Time-crunched practitioners who try to read research papers can find themselves thwarted by the obscurity of scholarly language. Consider Christopher Bell, co-founder and CEO of Zoomergy LLC, a software consultancy in Los Angeles. Bell is unusual among business leaders in that he actually seeks out research papers, but only to a point. “Making the leap from the research results to the actions I should take is not often clear,” he says. “And of course, time is limited so if the research is described in peculiar terms only used in a highly subspecialized academic niche, I’m not likely to even get to the conclusion let alone act on it.”

Thus, to reach business practitioners in writing, the best bet may be to write articles for industry trade magazines, mainstream business journals, or op-eds for newspapers, all of which are hurting for good content these days. Researchers who don’t have time to pitch articles to the popular press can post to a personal blog, or, on a less time-consuming scale, provide brief synopses of their research on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

For the past 20 years Greenstein has written a 1,500-word column for IEEE Micro, a bimonthly magazine published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest association of technical professionals. “The email responses can be very interesting and educational,” he says.

Gino has written articles for Harvard Business Review, the New York Times, Scientific American, and Huffington Post, among others—“with some pieces being rejected; that’s par for the course,” she says.

Edelman provides straightforward summaries of his research on his a personal website. “I can’t imagine being excited about writing articles read only by other academics,” he says. “I think I could do it. But it wouldn’t get me out of bed in the morning.”

Making Research Easy To Understand Is Not Always Easy

French mathematician Blaise Pascal famously wrote, “Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.” Loosely translated: “I have written a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short one.” For sure, journal requirements aside, it can be a lot harder for an academic to explain research in layman’s terms than with academic jargon.

“For example, one professional statistician talking to another can cut a lot of corners by using specialized language,” says Greenstein. “It is very efficient. But sometimes it can be hard to explain to a non-statistician. It just is. Good statistics is actually quite challenging to do and explain. Econometrics is hard. That is an explanation, not an excuse.”

Fortunately, for academics, there are resources that can help them translate their research into accessible prose. For HBS professors, of course, there’s Working Knowledge, the publication you’re reading right now. But many general-interest publications employ editors who can help guide the process for scholars to write straightforward pieces about complex research.

Another good option for researchers: making business journalists aware of the research, and encouraging them to write about it themselves, in news articles and feature stories. Talking to journalists is an effective way to publicize research, but there are translation risks. For instance, journalists sometimes jump the gun and confuse correlation with causation.

The best way for scholars to mitigate that risk is to avoid jargon when talking to journalists and to keep the conversation focused on the research. “I try to only say things to journalists and practitioners that are backed by sound scientific evidence,” says Brooks. “And if I mention my own thoughts or opinions, I make sure to give a big fat disclaimer such as ‘I don’t have data on this, but…” or ‘This is just my opinion or speculation.’”

A note to researchers who talk to journalists: Before the interview, ask whether they plan to quote you, and if so, can you review the quotes for clarity and accuracy before publication. Many journalists are happy to oblige, time permitting. But don’t ask them if you can review the whole story beforehand; the answer will be no.

And a note to business journalists deciding whether to write about research: don’t ignore new research just because it lacks an obvious tie to current events. New research can provide an opportunity to be prescient about real-world events rather than retrospective. The research itself can be the news hook, although it may not be as obvious as, say, a breakthrough in cancer research.

Remember the aforementioned research by Bazerman et al., which explained the unconscious biases that cause auditors to do a bad job of auditing? Bazerman first pitched a piece on the subject to a practitioner-focused publication in the late 1990s, but the editors weren’t interested. However, they became very interested in the research the following millennium, after auditor Arthur Andersen was convicted of illegally destroying documents related to the US Securities and Exchange investigation of its client, the Enron Corporation.,

“They needed the collapse of Enron,” Bazerman says. “There’s an issue of managerial outlets not being interested in good ideas until they have become obvious.”

Harvard Business School’s Michael I. Norton and Duke University’s Dan Ariely have received a great deal of mainstream media attention on their this YouTube video, which has received more than 19 million views. But, Norton says, it took nearly 10 years for the media to pay attention to the line of research.

“We started that research in 2002,” says Norton, the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at HBS. “Then some things happened in the world, and people started being interested in inequality.”

How Academic Institutions Can Change

It’s worth noting that Harvard Business School is unusual in that it stresses the importance of a strong interest in the concerns of practicing managers and in conducting theoretical, experimental, and field-based research that can influence “both academics and practitioners”among the faculty.

Institutional encouragement of practically relevant research is one way to shift the focus of academic studies, but Toffel argues for other fixes in his paper. He suggests academic journals do more to communicate with practitioners, inviting published authors to write companion pieces for practitioner readers, for example. In fact, the Strategic Management Journal now requires that accepted papers include managerial abstracts, and that journal and Academy of Management Perspectives have begun encouraging authors to create brief videos to explain their research to a broad audience.

Toffel also recommends that professional societies do more to promote and share relevant research with their members. Several societies already present awards to honor practically relevant research in their respective industries, he notes.

Finally, he argues that scholars need to learn the value of practical relevance from the start of their academic careers.

“We also need to encourage and train our doctoral students to nurture the desire to conduct relevant research and to acquire the knowledge to do so, including by encouraging them to engage with practitioners,” he writes.

In the end, the trend toward more applicable research will have to start with the researchers.

“My advice is to be true to yourself and your ideas,” says Edelman. “For those who have genuine and significant insights to provide to practitioners, the hope is that good idea will ultimately get the audience and recognition they deserve.”

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge offers an accessible look at the latest research and ideas from the faculty of Harvard Business School.

Source: This article was published forbes.com By Carmen Nobel

Categorized in Business Research

In researching high-growth professional services firms we found firms that did systematic business research on their target client group grew faster and were more profitable.

Further, those that did more frequent business research (at least quarterly), grew the fastest and were most profitable. Additional research also confirms that the fastest growing firms do more research on their target clients.

Think about that for a minute: Faster growth and more profit. Sounds pretty appealing.

The first question is usually around what kind of research to do and how it might help grow your firm. I’ve reflected on the kinds of questions we’ve asked when doing research for our professional services clients and how the process has impacted their strategy and financial results.

There are a number of types of research that your firm can use, including:

  • Brand research
  • Persona research
  • Market research
  • Lost prospect analysis
  • Client satisfaction research
  • Benchmarking research
  • Employee surveys

So those are the types of research, but what are the big questions that you need answers for? We looked across the research we have done on behalf of our clients to isolate the most insightful and impactful areas of inquiry.

The result is this list of the top 10 research questions that can drive firm growth and profitability:

1. Why do your best clients choose your firm?

Notice we are focusing on the best clients, not necessarily the average client. Understanding what they find appealing about your firm can help you find others just like them and turn them into your next new client.

2. What are those same clients trying to avoid?

This is the flip side of the first question and offers a valuable perspective. As a practical matter, avoiding being ruled out during the early rounds of a prospect’s selection process is pretty darned important. This is also important in helping shape your business practices and strategy.

In our research on professional services buyers and sellers, we’ve found that the top circumstances that buyers want to avoid in a service provider are broken promises and a firm that’s indistinguishable from everyone else.

Notice that this chart also shows what sellers (professional services providers) believe buyers want to avoid. Notice that many sellers misjudge their potential client’s priorities. Closing this perception gap is one of the ways that research can help a firm grow faster. If you understand how your prospects think you can do a much better job of turning them into clients.

3. Who are your real competitors?

Most firms aren’t very good at identifying their true competitors. When we ask a firm to list their competitors and ask their clients to do the same, there is often only about a 25% overlap in their lists.

Why? Sometimes, it’s because you know too much about your industry and rules out competitors too easily. At other times, it’s because you are viewing a client’s problems through your filter and overlook completely different categories of solutions that they are considering.

For example, a company facing declining sales could easily consider sales training, new product development, or a new marketing campaign. If you consult on new product development the other possible solutions are all competitors. In any case, ignorance of true competitors seldom helps you compete.

4. How do potential clients see their greatest challenges?

The answer to this question helps you understand what is on prospective clients’ minds and how they are likely to describe and talk about those issues. The key here is that you may offer services that can be of great benefit to organizations, but they never consider you because they are thinking about their challenges through a different lens.

They may want cost reduction when you are offering process improvement (which, in fact, reduces cost). Someone needs to connect the dots or you will miss the opportunity. This is similar to the dilemma of understanding the full range of competitors described above.

5. What is the real benefit your firm provides?

Sure, you know your services and what they are intended to do for clients. But what do they actually do? Often, firms are surprised to learn the true benefit of their service. What might’ve attracted a client to your firm initially might not be what they end up valuing most when working with you. For example, you might have won the sale based on your good reputation, but after working with you, your client might value your specialized skills and expertise most.

When you understand what true value and benefit of your services, you’re in a position to enhance it or even develop new services with other true benefits.

6. What are emerging trends and challenges?

Where is the market headed? Will it grow or contract? What services might be needed in the future? This is fairly common research fodder in large market-driven industries, but it’s surprisingly rare among professional services firms.

Understanding emerging trends can help you conserve and better target limited marketing dollars. I’ve seen many firms add entire service lines, including new hires and big marketing budgets, based on little more than hunches and anecdotal observations. These decisions should be driven by research and data. Research reduces your risk associated with this type of decision.

7. How strong is your brand?

What is your firm known for? How strong is your reputation? How visible are you in the marketplace? Answers to each of these questions can vary from market to market. Knowing where you stand cannot only guide your overall strategy, it can also have a profound impact on your marketing budget. An understanding of your brand’s strengths and weaknesses can help you understand why you are getting traction in one segment and not another.

8. What is the best way to market to your prime target clients?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know where your target clients go to get recommendations and referrals? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how they want to be marketed to? These are all questions that can be answered through systematic business research. The answers will greatly reduce the level of spending needed to reach your best clients. This is perhaps one of the key reasons that firms that do regular research are more profitable.

9. How should you price your services?

This is often a huge stumbling block for professional services firms. In my experience, most firms overestimate the role price plays in buying decisions. Perhaps it is because firms are told that the reason they don’t win an engagement is because of the price. It is the easiest reason for a buyer to share when providing feedback. 

However, if a firm hires an impartial third party to dig deeper into why it loses competitive bids, it often learns that what appears to be price may really be a perceived level of expertise, lack of attention to detail or an impression of non-responsiveness. We’ve seen firms lose business because of typos in their proposal — while attributing the loss to their fees.

10. How do your current clients really feel about you?

How likely are clients to refer you to others? What would they change about your firm? How long are they likely to remain a client? These are the kinds of questions that can help you fine-tune your procedures and get a more accurate feel for what the future holds. In some cases, we’ve seen clients reveal previously hidden strengths. In others, they have uncovered important vulnerabilities that need attention.

The tricky part here is that clients are rarely eager to tell you the truth directly. They may want to avoid an uncomfortable situation or are worried that they will make matters worse by sharing their true feelings.

Understanding the key questions discussed above can have a positive impact on your firm’s growth and profitability. That is the real power of well-designed and professionally executed business research.

Source: This article was published accountingweb.com By Lee Frederiksen

Categorized in Business Research

The relentless pace of change that affects the technology industry is unremitting. When new technology can upend a marketplace virtually overnight, keeping current with customer expectations, attitudes and preferences is a matter of business survival. Market research is one tool tech companies use to guide strategies in these areas, but is it worth the investment?

I believe so. In my time as Vice President of Engineering at Research Now, I’ve seen a number of our clients benefit from using research to monitor the marketplace and adapt to change. And our latest research report, conducted in partnership with Lawless Research, shows that tech companies use the insights they gain from survey research in many ways: to improve strategic decision-making, lift customer satisfaction and improve customer service, design better products and gain competitive advantage. It's also worth noting that only 6% of tech companies conducting market research are less than 5 years old -- most had been in business for 20 years or more.

Given this, I'd like to highlight a few key takeaways for either better leveraging your existing market research or getting started for the first time.

If your company is already conducting research:

• Leverage it. Are you using research to support important business goals and functions, like sales, market share or product design? Consider how you’re using research data and insights and explore how you can expand the value your organization gains from it.

• Integrate it. Are you expanding the value of your research data by integrating it with other data sources -- both internal and external? By integrating data, you can both broaden your perspective and, at the same time, draw deeper insights for more confident decision-making.

• Evaluate it. Is your research budget adequate to support your company’s growth and success? If budget is an issue, can you take advantage of new, automated solutions that reduce costs without compromising quality?

Even a successful research program can benefit from a reexamination based on new approaches to research.

• Create a case for it. Enlist colleagues from functional areas that will benefit from the insights research provides -- product management, product development, customer service, marketing, sales -- and build a business case for conducting research.

• Next, search for a trusted data partner. In the world of survey research, there are many entities that provide access to survey samples -- or, people willing to participate in research. Some entities collect panel data via partnerships with major brands and publishers and own, manage and sell their data. They may also offer optimization services. Others sell survey respondent data collected via websites and online communities or collect data via web intercept. Some don’t collect panel data themselves but simply offer data from other providers, with varying levels of added services or refinement. And finally, some providers simply aggregate other data sources. Understanding how these research participant sources differ -- and how those differences influences result -- is important in making informed decisions.

Related...

• Vet recruitment methodology, participant management and quality measures. Buyers of research data can often assume quality in their sample source from the start and jump straight into the reporting, insights and takeaways. That can be a mistake. How survey participants are asked to join a survey matters, as well as how much information is known about them before they join. Are they a truly verified person or just a robot? Are they the right person to be taking the survey? If you’re looking to reach technology decision makers and your survey participant is a freshman in college majoring in journalism, the data collected can skew potential insights. Likewise, a high-quality data partner will have control over who, where and how they source research participants, as well as how they enforce quality checks before, during and after data collection.

• Select the partner that meets all your research needs. A data provider should ensure quality in the sample, but if you're thinking long term, consider a partner organization that could potentially offer more. Certain data providers offer end-to-end solutions, from simple to complex, that can be a good fit for a variety of research conducted. Your partner should provide flexibility to adapt to your specific project needs and/or changes in research scope.

Whether your company is a startup or long-time player in the tech industry, the role of market research can be critical to a company’s success.

Source: This article was published forbes.com By Khusro Khalid

Categorized in Market Research

If you’re handy with a computer and can use the internet to find information, you have a valuable asset at your fingertips and a potentially booming business in the making.

HOW TO START AN INTERNET RESEARCH BUSINESS

Virtually every business has a marketing department, and if you’re precise, determined and can do a little detective work on the web to find out information for them, they’ll pay you top dollar to do so.

This is a B2B business, meaning you’ll be a business serving other businesses. Whether it’s to find keywords to help a company boost their search engine ranking or it’s doing recon on competitors in retail, there’s a virtually limitless market here.

STEP 1: LEARN WHAT CUSTOMERS MIGHT NEED

There’s a wide variety within the field of internet research. Different clients will want you to research different things, and you’ll have to be able to service them all if you want to gain and maintain a great reputation. You might be researching:

SEARCH ENGINE KEYWORDS

What words and phrases do your clients need to mention on their website to maximize their ranking on search engines?

COMPETITOR ANALYSIS

What do competitors sell and at what prices? What’s their market share? Who shops with them? You’ll need to be able to build an entire profile on a competitor if your client requests. Most of the information you need can be found online.

HEADHUNTING DETAILS 

Companies are always looking for new talent and how to get in touch with decision makers within companies to bolster their direct marketing efforts. If you can help them track down and find those people and their contact details, you’re positioning yourself as a vital lynchpin within their business.

OTHER RESEARCH 

There are other pieces of information and databases clients may ask you to build. From product pricing to current trends to compiling market statistics, if you can research and record data, you are going to have as much business as you can handle.

Finding the right information is all about knowing where to look and having the patience and discipline to keep digging and following leads until you find it.

 STEP 2: LEARN HOW TO QUICKLY FIND ANYTHING ONLINE

 MASTER GOOGLE SEARCH TRICKS

STEP 3: MARKET YOUR SERVICES

You can market your services in a number of ways. You could do the traditional things like harnessing word of mouth, promoting yourself on social media, and building a website, but ultimately you need to go where the clients already are to get started.

Large freelancing platforms like Upwork and Freelancer are great places to begin. You’ll find clients searching for everything and anything from a list of competitor websites and their ranking to the phone numbers of fifty executives in a specific market.

The higher paying work will come when you run your own firm, but these are great places to find your first clients and get into the swing of things.

STEP 4: ASK FOR REFERRALS & BUILD A CLIENT BASE

When you do a job successfully, ask for referrals. Most businesspeople know other businesspeople, and they’ll be happy to pass on the word that you’re a great researcher and can find a needle in a haystack.

Also, record clients details and ask them for future projects. Let them know you aren’t a fly-by-night company and are looking to forge long-term client partnerships. They’ll likely keep your information on file for future projects. Contact them regularly to see if they require your services and keep them up-to-date with promotions.

STEP 5: BUILD A TEAM

Build an Internet Research Team

BUILD AN INTERNET RESEARCH TEAM

There’s only so much you can do yourself.

Eventually, if you want your business to grow and you want to complete projects quickly, you need to put together a team.

You can have a remote team or an office based team, but either way, you need to have talented people working around the clock. Hire detail oriented, methodical people who double check everything and as your business grows, keep adding team members to your workforce.

Eventually, you’ll be a sizeable internet research firm and will have a solid reputation for delivering results.

Pro Tip: As you build a team, try to position people in different places around the world through the power of remote working. If you can leave off at 5 pm in New York and have your staff pick up and continue at the same time in The Philippines, you’ll look super efficient and complete projects much faster, impressing your clients in the process and increasing the chance that they’ll retain you.

Summary: How to Start Your Online Research Business

Internet research is big time business. Every company in the world is moving online, and most business owners have neither the time nor the inclination to learn about things like keywords, search engine ranking, and how to build databases of potential customers or talented staff.

That’s where you come in. If you’re analytical, precise and efficient, this could be the business for you.

Source: This article was published mynextbusinessidea.com By eadmin

Categorized in Online Research

Home based Internet research business can be started to assist companies who need information about the corporate world to make the right decisions. Companies hire people who can conduct qualitative research or make reports which will be useful for them. For such purpose, companies hire people who have sufficient talent of doing real research. If you want to know how to start a home based Internet research business, you can go through this article.

Include necessary steps of starting a home based Internet research business in your business plan. This will organize your work and determine your success at the same time. You will need a computer, 24 hours accessible Internet and office supplies to initiate a home based business. Make sure you get access to a reliable Internet which will not cause you any problems during your work. Similarly, check your computer for errors or viruses because losing one file might affect your work immensely.

Take assistance of search engines; it will result in finding the right material which companies require. Search material which you find same at different places to make sure the ratio is similar. This will assure of its accuracy. Complete information on search engines and their use will assist to collect authentic data. To search a specialized field will help you become proficient in it.

  • Computer Repair Business
  • to Start a Computer Service Business
  • How to Start an Internet Radio Station
  • How to Start an Internet Broadcast
  • Internet Marketing Business

You have to prepare reports according to the need of your customers. The format of information will be decided by the customer, therefore, note down details which are essential. How to start a home based Internet research business is important to know if your wish to start it on your own.

Before you start writing or doing research for a customer, understand certain pre-requisites. Research on the Internet and read the material which has already been searched and compiled as a report. An authentic and accurate report will facilitate you to follow the right pattern.

You will make an official website of your own and market it on the Internet. Post advertisements on varying sites or send the link to your friends or share on social networks. Stay in contact with companies who work with you and ask them if you have any difficulty conducting research or finding information. The quality of your work will automatically increase your value. Therefore, read how to start a home based Internet research business once you decide to initiate.

Source: This article was published onlinebusinessideastips.com

Categorized in How to

Research is essential to collect facts and statistics about a company’s customers, employees and competitors. On the basis of these numbers, companies are able to make better managerial decisions. The collected statistics are organized into reports and the management team uses them to take action. A good research mechanism is essential, irrespective of the size of the company and its client base. Research is imperative for staying competitive in the market.

Significance

A business is able to make knowledgeable decisions because of research. In the research process, the company is able to obtain information about key business areas, analyze it, develop a strategy and distribute business information. Reports, provided to the top management, often include information on consumer and employee preferences and all the available routes for sales, marketing, finance and production. Management uses this information to decide the best strategy. Research is a prerequisite at all stages and phases of business operations. Initial research is required to gauge whether getting into the given type of business would be profitable and whether there is demand for the proposed product.

Function

By conducting business research, the organization ascertains what its customers want and then takes steps to prepare a product meeting those desires. Research also helps determine whether a product is accepted in the market. Research aids expansion into new markets.

Methods of Data Collection

There are two ways organizations typically collect data.

One is primary data collection from your immediate consumers, who provide feedback on your products. You can also invite customers to offer opinions on future products. To gain this information, an interviewer asks the customer to provide views on how the company can modify the existing product to satisfy his needs better. The interviewer uses surveys and questionnaires to collect and record data. This method is helpful for gaining insight about a company’s particular merchandise.

The second method is secondary data collection, which uses data that has already been printed over the Internet and in magazines and journals. This is predominantly useful in gauging the broad market scenarios.

Considerating a Consultant

Conducting research involves cost and time. The organization must weigh the pros and cons before hiring consultants to conduct research. Consultants must be made fully aware of what the organization is looking for from the research.

Advantages

The primary benefit to business research is that the organization is able to learn more about consumer choices and preferences. Research provides information on the product features that lure customers and flaws in the product or marketing that contribute to slow sales. Research helps the organization fix problems and cash in on the strengths. Research also contributes to a company’s ability to clearly identify the customer demographics and target demographic, including age, gender, monthly income of the household and educational levels. Research mitigates business risks and can help increase demand and sales.

Source: This article was published bizfluent.com By Suchi Moorty

Categorized in Business Research
Page 1 of 3

airs logo

Association of Internet Research Specialists is the world's leading community for the Internet Research Specialist and provide a Unified Platform that delivers, Education, Training and Certification for Online Research.

Get Exclusive Research Tips in Your Inbox

Receive Great tips via email, enter your email to Subscribe.

Follow Us on Social Media

Book Your Seat for Webinar GET FREE REGISTRATION FOR MEMBERS ONLY      Register Now