21 Oct 14 Effective communication in outsourced research

Similar to all other spheres of life, ‘Effective Communication’ is imperative for doing efficient and efficacious outsourced research. Yet during my decade-long experience in this field, I have witnessed projects falling apart, man-hours wasted and relations go sour only because the communication mechanism was malfunctioning. It is important to mark these gaps, identify the problems and make a conscious effort not to repeat them. However, today my objective is not to find fault, but to look at a few examples where effective communication triggered a paradigm shift in the study.

Listen – understand – ask – listen
And repeat if required. It is common knowledge that effective communication at the defining stage paves the way for efficient and successful project delivery. A business head wanted to increase his market share by initiating an elaborate sales and marketing campaign. He requested our research support to identify existing opportunities and target customers. During our goal setting discussions, we realised that the returns from investment and repeatability of the campaign were a cause of concern for him.

Given these concerns, the team suggested that we take a step back to analyze the competitive landscape. The objective of this research was to identify the client’s key differentiators. These, if fed into the campaign, would enable appropriate positioning and branding. The project identified two broad opportunities. First – white spaces were outlined in the current market, which could be easily filled by introducing simple modifications in the current product. Secondly, it highlighted some of the key differentiators that lent credibility to the competitors, giving them a market advantage.

Implementing these findings the client could increase his sales, without investing heavily in the elaborate sales campaign.

Moral of the story: Optimal research briefs, stemming from effective communication help maximise gains from research

Shout when in doubt
As repeated often, communication is effective when it is complete and timely. A sales head was aiming to capture a new geography for his products. He approached us for a targeted lead generation exercise.

At project initiation, the goal was to identify all firms operating in a particular industry sub-segment. However, the initial leads revealed that most of the large sized firms had already implemented these systems. The product costs were unaffordable for the small sized firms. So the mid-sized segment was the most lucrative target.

Initial findings were shared with the client, based on which the project scope was redefined, saving valuable time both at the researcher’s end and for the sales team using the list.

Moral of the story: Raising the flag at the right time is as important as reaching the finishing line.

Call a spade a spade
Given the nature of research work, there is a possibility to misconstrue or misrepresent facts. Hence, it is imperative that a researcher maintains his integrity, even when there is a conflict with business objectives.

An entrepreneur requested us for an opportunity assessment study. He had made considerable preparations to enter the market but decided to get a final opinion on the existing opportunities. Our findings revealed that, apart from the existing players, 8-10 new players were setting up their operations. Seeing the rush in business activity, the government was also planning to remove tax exemptions, putting further pressure on profitability.

Discovering these facts the client decided to rollback his venture. Although this implied a loss of already invested capital, he felt it was better than entering a low profit business.

Moral of the story: In communication, it is as important to be honest as it is to be polite.

Kajli Bakhshi

As a Project Manager at ValueNotes, Kajli led research support assignments and custom research studies across various industries. During her decade-long research experience, she helped clients make strategic decisions through opportunity assessment and competitive intelligence market studies.

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