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Consulting jobs can consist of a wide variety of tasks—ranging from social media marketing strategy to research and analytics—but no consultant can be successful without the proper tools. To optimize work and serve clients exactly what they want and need, you must be regularly monitoring trends and data, providing thorough research beyond the scope of a simple web search.
Here, we outline the ways in which you can level up your research chops and make use of the ever-expanding list of helpful tools. These tips are all unmissable parts of building an effective research process. Let’s dive in.
Of course, the first step in any process is to understand the desired outcome. Consultants should work with clients to define the research objectives and learn what projects the research will be benefitting and how it will be used.
For instance, if a healthcare client asks a consultant for market research on a specific health product, the consultant should ask follow-up questions as to where that research will be used. Perhaps the client wants to formulate a competitive product and see what else is out there, or maybe they simply want consumer insight into solutions: both options would mean very different research is needed for success.
Understanding the goals in this way will allow you to determine a clear starting point for your research initiatives, leading you to the right data and sources.
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Once the objectives have been identified, you can begin to input your searches into the right tools and databases. An open web search could have a lot of challenges as search engines prioritizing certain types of content or search queries may be less thorough.
A specialized database like Nexis® for Consultants database, which pulls from thousands of news archives across the internet and includes an extensive searching tool, helps to combat those potential pitfalls. Using Nexis, consultants can use a Boolean search structure (i.e. using NOT to exclude particular entries) and make use of filters (i.e. use a News filter to only see verified sources). This allows for consultants to get the exact information they need, filtering out any noise or repeated material.
It is crucial that consultants investigate the full breadth of the search tool they’re using, as to see how much will be included in the data. For instance, if an engine excludes archives from before the year 1940, some topics might be harder to understand as searches would only provide new results, which could be less accurate or detailed.
It might be tempting to collect top-line information without further investigation, but not every search result can be taken at face value. Often, headlines or the clips that appear in search engines do not accurately depict the wider meaning of the article or story. Headlines are attention-grabbing to garner clicks, and many important interviews can be cut into soundbites that might take things out of context.
Fully scanning the articles for all their information, and cross-checking with other sources, is crucial to avoid misinformation or underreporting. Similarly, many search results will lead users to a paywall, that limits the information you can access. Paywalls can often feel like dead ends in research, as it’s unrealistic to subscribe to every site to view their content. Tools like Nexis also circumvent this issue by providing the full archival entry so you have access to all the information you need.
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After engaging with helpful research tools, a consultant’s next step is crafting an analysis using the data that’s been collected. This can mean using a SWOT Analysis template, which identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of competitors and the client’s company so they can form an informed strategy moving forward.
Competitive research can be hard because it’s impossible to have access to every important piece of information about a company from an external lens. Consultants can make use of public data, but it’s also helpful to use tools that offer more in-depth analyses from compiling more information than what is available from a simple search.
SWOT Analyses of competitors give in-depth industry analytics, and consultants can consider also setting up regular alerts and reports for the client’s closest competitors so that any news is flagged immediately.
The above steps can be conducted for just about any company in the world, so consultants are also tasked with the need to tailor them to their specific clients. This ties back into the identification of research objectives and brings that to the next level by providing a great strategy to act upon.
For instance, a consultant may have found that a financial advisor’s competitors have larger followings than they do on social media, specifically TikTok. The consultant might dive into what gains are coming from TikTok, like an increase in new customers and a greater trust for the brand across the board and encourage their client to put more resources into TikTok marketing. This kind of strategy would help the client to focus on the more lucrative, successful paths forward so that they can best allocate funds and staffing.
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The process of researching for consultants is one that truly never ends—nor does the need for understanding new research tools. To stay on the cutting edge of the industry, consultants should know what is currently on the market in terms of extensive databases and analysis tools to deliver top-of-the-line research and data.
But the research process doesn’t end there; consultants must also organize and report on their findings. For this step, users can manually record data in spreadsheets or Google documents, or use a tool like Nexis® Hub, which automatically compiles research and generates reports. It’s important to consider all lenses when creating these reports; for instance, many employees do not know what “engagements” mean on social media, so presentations should include definitions and details that will help everyone get onto the same page.
Once the reports are created, consultants should involve all key stakeholders to collaborate on ways to implement important changes or steps because of the research. This should consist of presenting key findings while also inviting conversation around the importance of the data and what the next steps should be.
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Market research and analysis is a crucial part of any type of consultancy. When it comes to delivering data to clients, consultants should ensure they are using the most thorough search tools and reports so that nothing is missed.
To deliver accurate reporting, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of search engines. With the breadth of the Nexis archive, you can use the proper search and filter tools and avoid paywalls for complete data, making it easier to organize and analyze those findings to create a larger story.