Seven Strategies for Research Team Integration: Research in Practice

Brendan Cooney
Director of Behavioral Science, Sentient Decision Science

The staff here at Sentient Decision Science, Inc. comes from disparate backgrounds and skill sets, and we are often able to achieve unique insights for our clients that lead to business-changing ideas because of our strong belief in the importance of integration.

That’s not just in terms of integrating marketing research methodologies, but also in terms of team communication and knowledge-sharing. “Integration,” then, has at least two important meanings for marketing research.

The first is integration of research design, such as we do through our hybrid methodology research by integrating qualitative and quantitative methodologies into a holistic approach to the research process. A study currently underway provides a good example.

Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methodologies

We began with an exploratory quantitative study to set the framework and identify a core set of concepts from a much larger list.

We then investigated this core set in greater depth through a multi-touch qualitative ethnographic study, generating a rich tapestry of consumer experience through in-home visits and consumer-generated video.

In the third phase of the study, we will bring the tapestry into sharper focus through another quantitative study measuring the subconscious drivers behind the core set of concepts, and from these findings generate a set of communications and design principles that will guide our client’s promotional campaigns.

Research Team Integration: Communication & Knowledge Sharing

The second meaning of “integration” relates to team communication and knowledge-sharing, and in this sense it is about bringing together the various stakeholders in the research process. In the example above, the stakeholders count more than a dozen individuals, including our primary client and his internal team, and representatives from the creative design and marketing agencies responsible for executing new promotional campaigns.

The success of our research in meeting our client’s goals and objectives will depend in no small part on the degree to which all of these stakeholders coalesce around a common set of goals and are integrated at every step of the process.

Here are seven strategies we have used to facilitate project team integration, contributing to greater success in our research programs:

1) Create a communications path before you begin the research

Establish a communications path to all members of the client and research team, including those who will be involved in later-stage research. Set up a research team blog for active, day-to-day updates from the team and as a space to share and capture thoughts and ideas. Establish a habit of regular email communications, and be sure to “reply all.” Or set up a schedule of conference calls throughout the initiative timeframe.

2) Get people on board by involving them in tasks

Team members will be much more engaged when they have something to contribute. Set clear deadlines for input. Invite as many team members as possible to attend focus groups or ethnographic visits. Engage your stakeholders in brainstorming sessions and regular debrief meetings

3) Sign up research respondents for multiple-touch research

Building multiple touch points with respondents not only provides more opportunities for data collection, but also gives more opportunities for stakeholder input, feedback and involvement at each step.

4) Ensure debriefs are engaging and useful

Use video, photos and respondent verbatim to bring the research to life. Even “rough” video or snippets can be powerful representations of key findings or ideas. Point out information gaps that can be explored in subsequent research phases.

5) Write a briefing document that leads to more discovery

In addition to noting those areas where you have enough information, include some open questions, and end debriefs with a list of hypotheses to explore. Debriefs that encourage thought and engagement from the team will generate more rich information and context, and will help keep stakeholders involved throughout the process.

6) Early-stage researchers should stay involved until the end

Qualitative researchers involved at early stages can continue to contribute valuable insights over the course of the project, and are often in a better position to understand the implications of later research developments. As the research owner, you can also be an advocate for all members of the team to stay involved.

7) Consider it an active process

Be open to active input from stakeholders, and to the possibility that the design of later phases of research may change based on early-phase findings. When possible, consider the option to go back to the drawing board and re-think the way you are achieving your research objectives.

Interested in learning more? I recently discussed these steps in a in a Market Research Bulletin webinar. Click here to get a replay. Or join in the ongoing LinkedIn discussion. I look forward to talking with you.

In Defense of Marketing

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