Sometimes, it's not about what you find - it's all in how you present it.
Yes, the sad truth in the research business is that information is now a commodity. It's easy to find for just about anyone, and clients no longer marvel about how much of it you've found. More information? Specialized information? Forget about it - they're drowning in it.
But tell your clients what the information means to them, or - better yet, show them what it means - and you've transformed yourself from redundant to a valuable member of the decision-making team.
For example, for a recent project I gathered information about the different sides to an issue that's very important to my client and his organization. Honestly, I don't think I provided much in my report that he didn't already know. It's a topic he's researched quite a bit on his own, and he regularly monitors the press and other sources for updates. On top of that, not much had been published about this issue, and - due to the short time line for the project - we were able to conduct just a few phone interviews with industry experts.
When it came time to analyze and report the results of my research, I wondered what else I could bring to this project. I had already created my quick summaries and executive summary, but - given what I knew about my client's goals and how he would be using this research - I realized that it wasn't enough.
What this client really needed was a clear picture of all the arguments for and against the two proposed industry changes - something that would highlight the key points and make it easy for him to make his case for a third approach to the problem.
I decided to take the lists of pros and cons that I had compiled and put them into a simple Word table:
[Yes, I I know that Word offers lots of options for designing cool-looking tables. A simple table works best when presenting a complicated issue.]
The outcome? My client found the information in my report so useful, he sent it to several members of his team and flagged it as a must-read.
By displaying the lists side-by-side, and by using a visual format rather than a long list of bullets, the information I'd found became something more than a commodity - and it added some much-needed impact to my insights.
What tools do you use to add impact to your research?