The Research Strategist’s Playbook

Submitted by on the 7th of February 2017

Over the past two years, my role in Cerebra’s Advisory has taken many forms, but research has been central to each one of them. In this article, I’ll share my five-step guide to developing creatively driven, data inspired strategies by building on a foundation of solid research.

Whatever their specialisation, I believe every strategist should be competent in research. A big idea is only as good as its relevance to the consumer’s needs and the client’s objectives. Knowing how to connect these two dots is what separates a nice idea from a rock-solid strategy.

Step 1: Read the instructions

It’s easy to rely on gut feeling and ‘winging it’ but, in the long run, that type of strategic thinking is not structurally sound. Always remember your core objectives and make sure they permeate every aspect of your work.

Step 2: Plan the outcome

Start with the end in mind and have a plan for how this research will be consumed. I do my own research to inform my thinking and planning when developing a strategy. A good strategist will envision the outcome to stay on track while doing research.

Step 3: Interrogate the research

Once the objectives and outcomes are understood, keep asking the right questions of your findings, research process and objectives to help you decipher the good data from the bad. Tons of data is out there; some of it is useful, but most will be misleading. Excel must become your best friend and, depending on the needs of your strategy, you will need to identify the best automation tools for efficiency and accuracy.

Step 4: Refine the findings

The information you find needs to be refined to make it digestible. This process helps a strategist focus on the key learnings to pinpoint opportunities and threats that arise. Continually asking questions like those below will help you do this:

  • Has the data been filtered reliably?
  • Have any shortcuts been taken that will dampen the output?
  • How can I ensure my findings are credible?
  • Is this information relevant to the brand?
  • Does this information answer my objectives?

Step 5: Deliver the insights

Once refined, you will possess the information you need to guide your planning and strategic thinking. Now, you need to choose an appropriate medium through which to deliver findings. The output format will depend entirely on the project – a PowerPoint presentation will usually suffice, but we all appreciate a change now and then. Educating the rest of the team on the insights and learnings from the research will give context and credibility to the strategy.