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Game Plan: Research
When most people think about research, they imagine a clinical process and rigid structure grounded in an overwhelming amount of data. At Simantel, we tend to have a different approach to research. With the NFL season in the home stretch, we’ll use a football analogy to help explain.
There’s No “I” In Team
Let’s establish that a marketing and communications campaign functions like an athletic team. A campaign is most successful when the entire group works together, each providing value and doing their part to achieve the desired result. No one individual is more important than the other, nor can one survive without the other. Research, strategy, account management, video, digital and creative must all play their role.
Our research manager, Jason Brown, was quick to offer an analogy when we asked him about the value of research and its underrated role in the final deliverable.
“Think of research as the offensive line and creative as the skill players who score all the touchdowns – running backs and wide receivers. The offensive line (research) lays the groundwork, opens the holes and provides the protection so that the skill players (creative) can shine,” says Jason.
Although research can seem like a less significant piece of the puzzle, it’s extremely important to each and every campaign. You wouldn’t want your creative to get “sacked,” would you?
Game Plans Are Scalable
Much like the notion that offensive linemen are fat and slow, there’s an unfair assumption that research is just a survey, interview or time searching the web. In fact it’s much more than that.
According to Jason, “Research is the ability to assess a situation with the simple goal of knowing more than you did previously, and with a clearer direction to pursue.” This knowledge can come through one-on-one conversations, group discussions, observations, surveys, hypothesis testing, secondary research and more.
An open mind and diverse approach to the research process allows for more flexibility throughout the campaign. It gives our team the ability to tailor the most effective and efficient plan for any budget, timeline and scope.
You Can’t Wing It
Almost all of our research falls into three buckets: exploration, clarification or validation. To get the most out of the team’s efforts, it’s important to know the goals of the work up front. One of the most important activities that NFL coaches do is game plan, and we like to do the same before kicking things off.
Exploration is the most common form of research, where clients recognize that there is a clear unknown in the marketplace. Consider this the scouting report, which describes each team, their star players and their strengths/weaknesses. Exploration provides an answer to questions involving business opportunities, target market, market segments or current perceptions about a product/service.
Validation is becoming more common throughout the industry. Many times, clients are forced to confirm the communications and marketing direction they’ve chosen. In football terms, validation is the challenge flag that coaches throw when they’d like a certain call to be reviewed on video. The official may be confident in his call, but he has to review. Similarly, the team may be comfortable with the direction of the campaign, but when the challenge flag is thrown, research can provide the answer.
Clarification is when clients believe they know their customers and the current perception about their product/service. Unfortunately, some clients are too close for an objective viewpoint. Customers are more open to communicating with a third party, leading to an honest conversation that captures useable insights. It’s similar to a team watching film after a game. Often times, players are too close to the action to see everything that is captured in the game film. Research helps give clients the full picture, which they may not see from their side of the field.
The Perfect Pocket
In most cases, the client, their superiors or even our own account supervisors will question the direction of a campaign. Research gives the account staff the confidence and support to defend the chosen direction. If the account staff is the quarterback, the research (offensive line) gives them the ability to stand in the pocket and continue looking downfield before throwing the ball. Without the support of research, the account leads may begin “scrambling” for answers.
Calling an Audible
Every campaign should incorporate some level of optimization. The initial direction may be spot on, but perceptions and the way communications are received can change rather quickly. If you’re not optimizing, it doesn’t take long to fall behind. Research allows us to continue adjusting a campaign for best results.
Think of it like a team changing the play at the line of scrimmage just before the ball is hiked. No matter how great the coach’s play call was at first, it might be best to change the play when the offense identifies the formation of the defense. Call it an audible.
Like any offensive line, research doesn’t get the spotlight, but is vital to the team’s overall success. If you’re interested in finding out more about our research process and how we use it throughout client work, shoot us an email or give us a call at (309) 674-7747.
Jason loves nothing more than talking research…and football.