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If the search for killer insights can sometimes feel as hit and miss as the proverbial hunt for a black cat in a dark cellar, then don’t despair. 

Firstly, you’re not alone. Every research professional has experienced something similar, for the simple reason that finding the really valuable stuff has never been easy. That’s why it’s valuable.

Secondly there are tried and true techniques to improve your hit rate and save significant time in the process.

Whether you undertake research yourself or – more likely – you’re responsible for quality, timeliness and efficacy of research produced by others in your organization, what follows can help with the challenge of finding the right insights at the right time.

Importantly our suggestions were gathered firsthand from experienced research professionals who face this challenge on a regular basis, so they’re very much rooted in the real world. 

Well begun is half done

Let’s start at the beginning of the research process and information or resources your researchers need before they get going.

As well as a clear definition of your target audience, there’s one other piece of vital information your researchers need. 

It’s essential you understand the current state of knowledge regarding your research topic. 

By that we mean undertake some brisk desk research, talk to knowledgeable colleagues, review literature, search available data and so on to find out what’s been answered already and what hasn’t. That way it becomes clear where your analysis could add value by uncovering unique insights.

This is the very start of the research process so there’s plenty of time to revamp your approach if it becomes clear your initial angle isn’t quite on target.

The point is to have a good idea of a promising approach and a few key areas to focus on, then get started. Nothing will refine your team’s thinking faster than action.

Don’t just ask “what”, ask “so what?”

That’s how to make sure the data you uncover genuinely benefits your business. 

An insight must pass the “so what?” test. If not, it’s peripheral at best, irrelevant at worst.

To get the ball rolling, hit some news sites and/or Google to get a broad feel for the area and embed the questions your team comes up with in context of contemporary events.

It often isn’t possible to have a detailed understanding of your team’s research topic ahead of time, so it’s important to make the effort to understand the landscape in general terms. Situational awareness is never wasted.

The aim is to come up with the broad questions that need answering. Having done that, it’s time to hit the data and get digging.

Challenging conventional wisdom

All this raises an important question: how do you know you’ve found a nugget of insight worth its weight in gold?

One crucial test is, does a finding challenge conventional wisdom?

If something seems counter-intuitive or raises more questions than it answers then congratulations, you’ve found an undiscovered truth. 

That said, novelty isn’t everything and chasing it shouldn’t be allowed to derail your team’s efforts.

Much of the time the obvious answer is the right one. If that’s the case then the next step is often to peel back the layers, applying different audiences to uncover something unique behind the obvious that can be used strategically.

That last point is important, crucial even. An insight, however unique, that can’t be used is – literally – useless.

The sweet spot is when data your team has discovered is both indisputably right and highly deployable. That’s the real “kerching” moment.

The habits of highly effective researchers

Building on the guidance we’ve just offered, now feels like a good time to share top tips from researchers designed to help your people find the right data fast.

  • Leave no stone unturned. Sometimes you might not get the insights you need from the question you had in mind – but can you find it somewhere else? Can you adapt data from another question and frame your story in a different way? Taking a fresh perspective and/or reframing your basic question can be all it takes to help things click into place.
  • Pool data resources. Every good researcher knows validation is key – that’s why starting with survey data from GWI then cross-checking with your first-party analytics is crucial for the full picture. It’s about bringing your audience into view and uncovering insights that shine through from every angle.
  • Let the data lead you to insights. Hoping for or expecting a certain conclusion can only bias the research and lead to an imperfect answer. If your researchers can avoid assumptions (which we acknowledge isn’t easy) and instead approach matters with an open mind then you’ll hopefully avoid the problem of confirmation bias.
  • Go from the general to the particular. Even if your goal is data about an incredibly specialised area it can be helpful to start by asking general questions and progressively zero in, ultimately arriving at the really crucial, targeted questions that provide the most telling answers. 

The right tool for the job

There are a number of key features and qualities any professional research platform should include.

Full disclosure: this is the sales part of the blog where we draw your attention to GWI and point out why our platform is the ideal choice for researchers who want to find the right data and insights fast.

But leaving that to one side, whatever platform you’re using or considering needs to match these criteria.

Regular data updates 

The quantity and quality of your data is the foundation on which everything else is built.

Our Zeitgeist data is fresh every month and even our mammoth core data set is updated every quarter. The sheer number of GWI data points and their frequent updates mean the results it delivers are timely, relevant and credible.

Data that reveals reasons

Equally helpful is the way our platform enables researchers to segment audiences by attitude and behavior as well as more familiar demographics like age or income.

The result reveals the “why?” behind audience behaviours and gets researchers closer to their audience.

Quick view dashboards

Dashboards give researchers a really quick overview of all data on a given topic.

After seeing what’s available, they can dig deeper and break the data down in many ways. Having a high level overview like this significantly speeds up insight identification.

Powerful search bar 

A search bar is an essentially piece of a researcher’s armoury. This is the fastest way to get access to all the data that matches a particular search term across all our data sets.

Once found in GWI, it’s easy to export the results to Excel for use elsewhere. Again it’s all about helping researchers find unique insights in less time, making their life significantly easier in the process.

Don’t take our word for it – how fast access to great insights changed this business for the better

Creative powerhouse agency KIWI knows the value of not only providing great data, but doing it quickly.

Their turnaround time for briefs was normally 4-5 days – too long to be as efficient as they had the potential to be.

In a bid to meet a tricky challenge, the KIWI team used GWI to find the insight and inspiration they needed, fast.

“We used GWI to build a real idea of our consumer, and then to understand the emotional behind the behavior, self-interests, and purchasing actions,” says Arya Alfieri, Creative Strategist at KIWI.

This portrait gave them all they needed to pinpoint the idea that would hit the mark.

“GWI has totally changed our strategy – we’re now totally oriented towards our target audiences,” says Arya. “The data gives us the tools we need to map our consumers’ lives.”

With focused, fast data, they know they’re not only targeting the right audience, but they’re doing it in the right way.

And it pays off. Their first project based on GWI research created something unique and memorable for the client – and got the team from a 5-day turnaround to delivering research in an impressive 2 days.

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Written by

Roger is a senior copywriter at GWI with a special interest in research and data topics. He's written three books on copywriting for major publishers that together have earned him literally dozens of pounds. His hobbies include running, music and writing about himself in the third person.

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