Take-Aways From Strategic Partnerships That Can Enhance Your QRC Business

By Jonathan Ziegel, Engagement Strategist, Eagle Vision, New York, NY, jonathan@eaglevisionstrategy.com

Recently, I spoke with a seasoned market research colleague about the challenges she faces with client engagement. She expressed frustration that her client had decided to reduce the number of research initiatives she conducts to only one per year, leaving my colleague feeling more disconnected from her client’s business. We decided to co-create a proposal to enrich her service offering; we began by putting together a yearlong plan to better partner with her client. Essentially, we will take turns deriving insights from each other’s work to continuously engage and aid her client.

Specifically, we plan to:

  • Expand the research she is doing for shopper insights by breaking out and identifying channel specific insights
  • Leverage those insights to inform an expanded multi-channel campaign
  • Mine the research insights in three-month increments once our client’s company launches its multi-channel campaign (three months is long enough for a significant amount of data to be collected)
  • Recommend additional market research initiatives to arrive at deeper and better understanding of people’s channel-specific behaviors
  • Refine and build out a multi-segment strategy and research initiative that focuses on goals, communications, channel activation, and outcomes over time

This article discusses the added value you can bring when partnering with other strategic consultants. By partnering with an engagement strategist, my market research colleague has positioned herself as part of a go-to team who can help her clients understand and capitalize on their customers’ behaviors in a variety of channels across a mix of media and communications. Working together, we will be able to arm companies with the insights and knowledge to help them realize their potential.

Defining the Role of Your Strategist

First, let’s define a “strategist.” By itself, it’s a broad term that can refer to someone who performs brand planning, digital, channel or experience planning, content strategy, even data and analytics strategy. Competing in today’s business world requires an understanding of a company’s core values and services, as well as where and how they are communicating with their customers. The right mix of various strategic partners can complement your market research offerings to help inform and organize your clients’ marketing programs:

  • A brand planner can help a company determine its identity, core values and communications program so that it can more clearly articulate its offering to both existing and potential customers in the marketplace. The right planner will help a company know itself better than anyone and not allow others (i.e., competitors, unsatisfied customers, Brand Vultures, even misinformed Loyalists) to ill-define it.

We worked with a company that was losing market share to a competitor with a comparable service offering. A quick analysis showed that the competitor had improved its satisfaction scores by promoting its customer service programs. We then set in motion a program to partner with and activate Digital Influencers to speak to the white-glove service they received from our client’s company. Within three months, our client had surpassed its competitor in this category’s satisfaction scoring.

  • Once brand planning is complete, a channel strategist can help a business determine where and how to best relay its messages to customers. In this phase, a digital strategist (which is a subset of a channel strategist) can build a strategy to help a company communicate the right messages in the right online channels at the right times.

Have you ever clicked on a link and then found that the corresponding landing page had nothing to do with the information you were interested in? One of our clients was failing to connect with its younger online customers, specifically millennial professionals. These customers did not feel connected to the brand or the content it was producing. We recommended and built an online peer-to-peer forum for this target audience to communicate with each other and with seasoned professionals regarding management topics. The brand’s commitment to innovation, partnership, and growth was demonstrated in the tone and information provided
in the forum, helping it to connect better with its audience.

  • An experience strategist will help connect the dots on your communications and channel strategies. This person can help you look at the whole ecosystem and account for its data, interactions, and user experience to help your client execute its brand plan.
  • A content strategist will focus on defining the best messages for each channel. Content that is prepared for Twitter will differ from content that is created for YouTube, LinkedIn, a website, brochure, or CRM program. Your content strategist will recommend when to flood the market with content at a certain time or when to roll it out over an extended period, or both. The right strategy will also include a plan for the optimal sequence and cadence of your client’s communications program.

One point of clarity: content strategy and copywriting are distinct services. The strategist will typically provide a briefing to the copywriter on the goals, tone, and channel of the copy to be prepared. While one person can handle both responsibilities, the content strategist is usually different from the copywriter.

  • A data or analytics strategist helps figure out how to evaluate its company’s marketing program. This strategist determines the questions to answer, critical success factors, and key performance indicators (KPIs) that are critical to building an evaluation model. For example, to answer how well a landing page is working, a success factor might be conversions (from click to purchase) and a corresponding KPI could be the number of shopping cart page abandonments.

This strategist also identifies which data sources will provide the right insights, confirm functional dataset integration, and ensure data integrity. He or she picks the primary and secondary metrics to help assess a current campaign and optimize its future iterations. The strategist then presents the campaigns’ findings in a dashboard that is both visually compelling and informative.

Build a Client-first Relationship

By increasing the value of what you offer your clients, you are putting your relationship with them first. You can use your partner’s expertise to anticipate (and pitch) what else might help your clients grow their businesses while continuing to support them through research.

Building a strong reputation as a client-
first business partner is the first in a series of steps to business success. This means thinking, anticipating, and acting in the best interests of your clients and their customers. That reputation is essential to generating buzz and referrals.

Unfortunately, many market researchers are often brought aboard projects to address a certain specific area of focus and are provided with little to no context of the larger business needs or goals. Additionally, several stakeholders across a client organization’s hierarchy are weighing in on your project from the C-suite executive who needs the data to inform a business decision to the marketing executive who is charged with conducting the research to support that data request. In this context, it can be difficult to contribute added value, and you find communications end once the research is completed.

This situation, however, can be avoided by enhancing your current market research offering with the help of a strategic service professional. There are certain characteristics to look for in the right strategic partnership, including industry knowledge, relevant experience, timely availability, and costs.

Where to Find Your Strategic Partner

Finding the right strategist may take a little time: you can research them on LinkedIn, hear them speak at various conferences and summits, or reach out to colleagues for referrals. Be specific in what you’re looking for so that you can find a partner that best suits you. The right strategist can add value to your business by keeping you updated and involved with various initiatives, which can increase customer engagement and retention, boost sales, and develop longer-lasting loyalty.

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