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Building on our work with researchers across scores of industries we’ve pinpointed three key challenges that – like the proverbial bad penny – come up again and again.

  • Firstly there’s the headache of harmonizing disjointed data sets across multiple regions and/or audiences. 
  • Then there’s the challenge of managing your time, your team’s time, and your access to resources.
  • Finally there’s the unwelcome phenomenon of imposter syndrome, whereby highly able practitioners start questioning their professional legitimacy for no apparent reason.

If any (or all) of the challenges we outline here sound familiar, believe us, we understand.

We’re more than familiar with the challenges researchers face. 

In this article we look at each issue in more depth and offer a few ideas to help you fight back.

1. The disjointed data set challenge

High-quality data is one of the most valuable commodities in a researcher’s toolkit.

In contrast, dodgy data sets drain researcher resources and limit effectiveness. This we all know.

Unfortunately working with data from legacy systems with no single or unified customer view isn’t exactly unheard of.

That’s because the customer experience is increasingly complex due to the proliferation of devices and channels, and organizational conflicts can lead to siloed data and duplicate customer records across multiple databases.

The solution

The first step to overcoming the disjointed data set challenge is acknowledging that less-than-perfect data environments aren’t necessarily a showstopper. 

In many cases you can successfully leverage disjointed or incomplete data, supplementing it with third-party data or using large scale surveys to probabilistically link data sets. 

While our position is simple – single-sourced market research is the most effective way forward – it’s sometimes necessary to focus on finding imaginative ways to make things work, perhaps by widening your net to include other sources.

Try this

You’ve probably heard the old saying about how the bendy reed can survive storms that topple the mighty oak. Very poetic, but also very true. 

It’s important that researchers can flex in response to events, including deficiencies in their data sources.

This is often about reaction time and team attitudes.

If your researchers can respond to events quickly, effectively and with a glad heart then you’re in a great place; if they’re slow and resistant to change then less so.

Similarly, being able to make sense of the noise associated with disjointed data positions researchers as the experts in the room, with the insights and understanding to act as trusted advisors to decision makers.

Another example of flexibility in practice is making sure you can add new data sets to your core data to create a harmonious whole that expands to match your needs.

Our platform makes it incredibly easy to ingest new GWI data sets. That way your insights will always be relevant, whatever direction your business takes in the future.

2. The managing time and resources challenge

For busy research teams there are rarely enough hours in the day.

There’s a constant struggle between taking a broad enough approach (to make sure you’ve covered all the ground) and going deep enough (to make sure you’ve bottomed out the search for insights).

In practice this means that even with access to the right data sets, uncovering insights with the power to transform a strategy, campaign or business model can be a major challenge. 

The solution

There are several things you can do that together should help you triumph over this challenge. 

Firstly it’s essential to use the freshest possible data so tasks can be completed quickly and efficiently without being derailed by out-of-date stuff. 

Secondly it’s important to keep all your data in one, easily accessible location. 

Using a single data source with a single methodology means you don’t waste time trying to connect disparate data sets. 

Finally – and importantly – it pays to use powerful and intuitive tools, more of which in the next section.

Try this

The right tools can make a major difference when it comes to time and resources challenges.

We’ve redesigned our platform from the ground up to help researchers overcome this exact issue. The result saves time and maximizes efficiency (with a visual interface that’s miles away from the clunky systems of the past), supports the effortless ingestion of the latest data from GWI, and integrates everything in one easy-to-use location.

Our new platform’s introducing smarter search tools, the ability to “fave ‘n’ save” almost everything, and an intuitive resources app meaning you get to the stuff you actually want, in far less time. 

At the same time we’ve flattened the learning curve to such an extent that members of your team should be able to jump in and start generating results almost immediately, massively reducing any bottleneck around resources. 

(Keep an eye out for updates on the release of our brand new platform coming this summer.)

3. The imposter syndrome challenge

No one likes feeling on the back foot, least of all researchers whose work is supposed to inspire confidence and could underpin huge spending decisions. 

But when stakeholders almost inevitably know more than you about a particular topic it can be a challenge to avoid creeping feelings of self-doubt.

According to the Harvard Business Review, imposter syndrome is “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.”

Imposters suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.” Ouch.

The solution

No-one can know everything (even if they appear to), and that as a researcher you’re really a detective, not an encyclopedia. 

Your job is to know how to find stuff for your stakeholders, not to know it already.

That’s absurdly unrealistic. So – as far as possible – stop worrying and start reminding yourself of past successes.

All that good stuff in your past career? Remind yourself that you helped make it happen.

Facts are the key to overcoming feelings of inadequacy every time.

Try this

Within revenue-orientated teams, the ability of research leaders to demonstrate a genuine ROI from their work is a great way to overcome feelings of imposterism. Nothing says “credibility” like cold, hard cash.

Although sometimes tricky, there are ways to measure research and insight ROI and your team’s impact on your business, perhaps the simplest and most effective is looking at straightforward commercial success. 

Using this approach, City Pantry – one of London’s leading office catering marketplace businesses – were recently able to demonstrate cost-per-lead figures 75% lower than other campaigns of a similar type thanks to uniquely positioned, insight-driven content. 

For teams where revenue earning is at one remove (say product development) other metrics make more sense, for example speed of decision-making.

The point is that collaboration between teams and clear communication of results and data make demonstrating research and insight ROI a practical proposition, with the confidence dividend that implies.

The big takeaways

Obviously there are no foolproof solutions to any of the challenges we’ve just outlined.

That said, the ideas we put forward above can undoubtedly reduce the difficulty that hard-pressed researchers face on the daily:

  • Use a single-sourced, regularly updated data set 
  • Seek out and use the latest tools 
  • Believe in yourself and your track record

Perhaps the most important takeout is that very few problems in our world are truly intractable, and where there’s a will, switched-on research professionals can usually find a way.

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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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