"We have only two sources of competitive advantage:
- The ability to learn more about our customers faster than the competition and
- the ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition."
Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric from 1981 through 2001
(during his tenure, the company's value rose 4000%)
We believe that the days of "nice to know" are permanently behind us. The only reason to do research is that you want to take an action and need the decision support that research can deliver. We have been in client after client's office and seen stacks of research reports that were useless in terms of taking actions. Nice door stops or "cool looking" in a bookcase seemed to be their primary purpose.
At ResearchLink Partners, we firmly believe that the only reason to do research is to affect a company's strategy - whether that be product development, communications development or a host of other business issues. After all, isn't the name of the game to become a better, more profitable business. That is what research can help you achieve - but only if it is action oriented research.
Action oriented research is designed that way from the start. We listen intently to a client's business issues/problems and then devise a way using our experience base to solve a particular problem. The client issues define the methodology, the audience being researched, the questions asked and the analysis to be performed subsequent to the data collection. All of those things drive toward a strategic solution to the business issue or problem.
Knowledge and Experience - when you combine the two, the resulting strategic product can often be heads and shoulders above the competition. The knowledge part comes from the right research and analysis - as Jack said you have to learn about your customers (and we believe prospects) faster than the competition. Those insights can uncover the nuggets that drive strategic program development and create a competitive edge for your products and/or services.
However, great strategy also has to be born of experience. Experience more or less consists of two items - successes and failures/mistakes. You learn from both and more often than not, the greater amount of learning comes from the mistakes. As James Joyce once said, "Mistakes are the portals of discovery." In our 70 plus years of experience, we have made our share. But that learning is an extremely important aspect that we bring to clients - the ability to helping them avoid the pitfalls in marketing.
There is no single "best practice" for how to do successful strategic planning. The timing and process will differ depending upon industry, market pressures, and the size and culture of the business. Strategic planning is typically oriented to a particular company's circumstances at a particular time in its history. However there are a number of proven and effective practices and methodologies that can be adapted for virtually any business. The approach we take at ResearchLink Partners generally follows the steps below: