Being a brand or consumer insights manager is a very rewarding and challenging job, but a hectic one at best.   Prior to joining Insights in Marketing I was a brand manager so I know, as do most of the Sr. Marketing Consultants here at IIM. However, no matter how hectic your job is, marketing research consultants are here to help!  Since starting work at IIM, I have realized just how much.

Coworkers layer hands as part of a huddle over a wooden conference table with marketing analytics and open laptops.Therefore, please consider the tips below as a guide to leveraging your marketing research consultants more. Following these tips will ensure that you secure valuable time back in your day all while staying close to the consumer!

Tip #1:  Involve your marketing research consultant in brainstorming & strategy sessions

Although you may not have a retainer agreement with your marketing research partner, you do have their undivided attention and expertise at your disposal. Researchers, and IIM in particular, love to engage with their clients during brand brainstorming and strategy sessions. They often come to the table with new, simplified approaches that will help you collect the data you need and offer up insights/strategies that you may not have considered. Best of all, they don’t mind and they don’t need a retainer to be there for you when you need them most! Therefore, involve them early and often in your research planning cycle.

Tip #2:   Allocate money for research at start of the planning cycle

With the economy being down, every brand scrambles for cash and has to do a lot more with fewer dollars. However, I found that setting aside money for research at the start of every planning cycle was a key strategy to help me accomplish my consumer goals for the year. If you don’t spend all of it, then it can go to advertising or promotional plans, but every year it is important to revisit the consumer and make sure you stay connected. I viewed research as a non-negotiable and so should you. If you don’t make it a priority, no one will!

Tip #3:  You have time to do that critical study! Researchers can turnaround projects faster than you think!

In my past life, my colleagues and I were always scrambling to meet deadlines, exploring areas of opportunity with little to no data in very short timeframes. Well, something that I wish I had known was that reaching out to consumers for my brand doesn’t take months! It only takes a few weeks and thus if I had extra money left at the end of the year, I should almost always spend it on research due to the cost/benefit ratio of impactful research. While spending a little more on coupon redemption rates is great, finding out a critical way to talk to your consumers and validate/modify your messaging strategy is much more critical and more impactful to the brand’s ultimate business results.

Tip #4:  Look for marketing research consulting firms with a variety of capabilities & innovative thinking

While marketing research firms that offer one primary service are great, it is much more advantageous to work with a firm that offers a variety of capabilities, techniques, and personalities! Without multiple methodologies and personalities to choose from, the solution you get is not going to be customized to meet your needs. Therefore, go with a partner that can provide you the variety in skill/expertise that you are looking for. Look for a firm (like IIM!) that can do qualitative and quantitative as well as online and offline research. Your marketing research firm should be versatile and be able to do both in-homes and shop-a-longs as well as leverage online and mobile platforms to connect with consumers. This will only increase your research options, give you more data points and guarantee that the solution chosen will effectively meet your needs. Plus, you won’t have to go searching for a new vendor every time your brand desires something new/innovative because the partnership you have will evolve to meet your needs.

So, next time you are pinched for time and could use a really fresh perspective, call your Marketing Research Consultant. They can save you so much time and will really help you establish that connection to the consumer that you have been craving!