Data is great. But most data consist of information about a single point in time, especially when the survey is about a single transaction, such as your last visit to a restaurant. Recurring – or tracking – research is valuable because it can tell you whether that data point is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same over time. And those changes can have a significant impact on the success of your business.
Also, there are many types of recurring research that you can find. And each of those sources can bring you a different perspective: Is this data point increasing across the board, or only for some market segments? How are customers and competitors reacting? How does this changing data point impact other metrics we need to monitor? The more you know, the more prepared you can be to respond to market changes in a timely and impactful way. Here are some of the types of data sources you should include in your information recurrent research toolbox:
- Syndicated Research. Syndicated means a single research report for a cross-section of clients, not done for an individual client. A third party research agency will coordinate the execution of the research, methodology, and style of questioning on behalf of a group of clients. But often, clients do not commit upfront, and the research results are offered to anyone who is interested in the topic. Since multiple clients share in the costs, syndicated research is always more cost-effective than doing these projects yourself. Additionally, the scope of the study can vary from an entire industry (e.g., residential construction), to a sub-category of that sector (e.g., HVAC), to a specific part of that subcategory (e.g., solar) or a particular customer group (e.g., Senior Housing). And of course, the research is replicated over time so that clients can identify and evaluate market changes. Syndicated research is a cost-effective recurring research resource.
- Tracking studies. Many companies conduct proprietary tracking studies on the metrics that are most important to them. That might include customer satisfaction and experience, employee engagement, ad awareness and recall, brand perceptions, competition – or just about anything else. The studies cost more than syndicated research, but you won’t be sharing the information with any other players in your industry unless you choose to. Additionally, the research is designed and conducted at the pleasure of a single client, allowing for total control over the study, making sure it entirely meets your needs.
- Government Research. Federal, state, and local government data is usually very high quality, but often a little confusing to access and to bring down to the level that makes sense for your business. From Census data, business data, agricultural data, and more, the opportunities are vast. There are many specialists (both inside and outside government) who can assist in finding and manipulating the data, so don’t be turned off by the dimension of the data available. Because this data usually has no additional cost (except for any specialist you might use), government data can be a treasure trove of recurring information.
- Trade Association Research. Like syndicated data, many trade associations conduct research for and about their client members, and their industry. Again, trade association research can be a precious tool, as long as the methodology used, the questions asked, and the sample population meet your information and are not too restrictive.
Each of these sources will give you a slightly different take on the metrics you need to run your business. And those differences are essential; different audiences, different methodologies, or various questions can create unique and valuable insights for better and more informed decisions. Nonetheless, as end users, you should consider all forms of research as part of your information arsenal.
Of course, all businesses use recurring internal information to manage their business. Who wouldn’t be looking at sales, customer service reports, financials, and other readily available internal data? But looking only internally at your data can give you a skewed perspective and can be misleading. The recurring research sources discussed here to supplement your internal data to provide you with have the 360-degree view on your business, your industry, and your customers that you need for success.