How To Get The Most Out Of Your Research Agency

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

by | 30 Nov, 2021 | Untapped Thinking

A few weeks ago, I wrote about “Setting Up Research For Success” and how in a time and budget constrained environment, clients can best plan their research for maximum return on investment. Collaborating with highly experienced research and innovation expert, Heather Newton as well as Global Insights Lead for the Innovation C of E at Reckitt, Lucy Lindsley, we shared five steps to reflect our thoughts on writing a brief to set up research for success.

With strong brief foundations in place that reflect clear business needs and where each research objective has an actionable outcome, let’s now consider how a client team can get the most out of an agency or research partner.

Engaging and empowering an agency is an investment, but this can deliver a lot of value if the agency

1) is treated as a strategic, problem solving partner (not just a supplier to outsource delivery to) and

2) receives a brief that informs and inspires them, leaving space for iterative co-creation.

As Lucy described in our webinar last month,

“It’s all about value creation with the amount you have to spend.”

A brief is a dialogue

Committing your thoughts to paper is hugely valuable, but your brief doesn’t have to be complete before you share it with your agency. Expect and plan for your brief to evolve through dialogue. Where you have trusted agencies, go to them early and talk through your emerging thinking, so you can tackle the business problem as partners. If you have done the robust upfront strategic thinking and stakeholder alignment we have previously described, some agencies are happy to work from a verbal brief or may even offer to write your brief for you. However this verbal briefing must not leave any room for false agency assumptions and to get the most from your agency, you should expect them to probe deeply into your own assumptions.

You don’t need to know the how

Lucy talked about the challenges clients face keeping up with an ever-growing plethora of new methodologies. “Gone are the days where you have a handful of techniques to choose from. You can create a jigsaw puzzle of solutions and look to agencies to make these suggestions to stretch your thinking.” When briefing your agency, you aren’t expected to place an order off a set research menu. Sometimes the most exciting briefs that an agency receives are the ones that at first glance seem the most impossible or require a new approach. Of course, you may have thoughts on methodologies that you’ve seen work well against an objective in the past or your company may have certain benchmarks or gates to pass before an idea can move forwards, so it’s important to state these. But you’ll drive efficiency and grow your own expertise by looking to your agency to do the heavy lifting on introducing new techniques.

Can your agency extract value from existing research?

As a starting point after you have defined your research objectives, it often helps to have an external pair of eyes scour your existing and historical research summaries through the lens of your business question to mine it for valuable insight. You’ll likely find that some of the research objectives have partly been answered. You can then revisit your research objectives to avoid any rework and build from your existing assets. Connections can often be made from a variety of insight, e.g. what’s needed (human insight and pain points, future or cultural insight) vs. what’s possible (technical or product insight). At Untapped, we call this “Asset Mining” and our clients find it delivers a huge return on their research investment.

In summary, in Lucy’s words,

“Agencies should be part of the team. We should leverage their expertise to get the most out of this strategic partnership.”

Lucy Lindsley

As agencies, the onus is on us to fully under the needs of each of our clients, offer and deliver research techniques with excellence that create value for the client and to support them as trusted partners.

If you would like to learn more about innovation from Untapped, please get in touch and check out our Innovation Gym brochure.

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