Over time I have been asked by clients to research questions that run the gamut from broad, general business issues to a very detailed analysis of a particular market segment or demographic. Topics can be very specific such as the popularity of oatmeal, selling tips for water pumps, or different types of mines operating in a foreign country. Other projects are more general like identifying industry trends for the types of safety signage, best practices for using guerilla marketing tactics, and the development of wireless networks.
Once the primary question is articulated by the CEO, it is my task to not only answer the specific question but to make sure I understand the other user requirements, such as what type of deliverable is needed, what the timeline is, and how the intelligence will be used.
My first step is to outline a plan of action, identify resources, tools and personnel to complete the project. As I begin my research, key pieces that I take into consideration include identifying and evaluating sources. I determine which proprietary databases might hold the answers I am looking for. I try to go to the most obvious site first that contains the information I need. I utilize multiple search engines such as Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo to compare results and carefully construct my search term order.
I verify the date of publication and confirm the currency of the information. I look for hidden data and mine footnotes for other leads. I check for press releases, case studies, product announcements, review social media entries, as well as look for trade associations and experts in the field to add to my body of knowledge.
I keep in mind the budget I am working with, in essence, I have to be aware of when to stop researching and begin compiling a report. I summarize my findings and provide the answer to the original question. Sometimes the research results tell an unexpected story and it is my job to articulate the elements that are affecting the market or changing the direction the company hopes to pursue. My goal is to provide trusted, actionable information in a timely fashion within the cost parameters.