Researching a new market, customer, or channel can be wildly inefficient. The Internet has abundant information, but finding just the right information you need is time consuming if you don’t know some of the tricks.
Here are 10 tricks to find the best answers to almost any research question.
1. Ask Your Peers on HighTable
Getting trusted recommendations from your network is always the best option, but sometimes your network isn’t big enough or experienced enough to help.
Enter HighTable. It’s a closed network of seasoned professionals willing to help, network, and mentor each other. Right now, it’s mostly entrepreneurs, but will open up to other professionals soon.
If you’re looking to connect with other people in the startup scene and get expert answers to specific business questions, HighTable can be a useful resource. The catch is that you have to apply and go through orientation, so make sure you sign up before you think you’ll need it, so you have it when you do.
2. Mine the Free Research at Think with Google
Google produces and collates a large collection of publicly accessible research through their Think with Google site. It’s obviously all focused on digital media, but cuts across a range of channels and industries, with an emphasis on large digital trends, for example:
Their research library, in particular, is a great place to start any digging depending on what you’re looking for:
- By Industry
- By Media Platform
- By Audience
Facts and Stats are great for presentations.
3. Ask a Research Librarian
One of my favorite research tricks is to go to the public library. It’s an often overlooked source, but libraries frequently have access to a lot of databases and research that can cost tens of thousands of dollars to buy.
If you’re not sure where to start, or just want another opinion, consult a research librarian. One of their goals is to help connect library goers with the right resources. You can ask them a question, sometimes online or by appointment, and they’ll come back with a personalized recommendation of the best databases and resources.
If you happen to be in Manhattan, check out the Science, Industry and Business branch of the New York Public Library. You can see which databases are available on their site and contact a research librarian.
Give yourself at least 5 days to hear back from a research librarian. You can access any of the databases, but have to be on site. You can use your personal laptop over the Wi-Fi connection.
4. Take a Class at Skillshare or General Assembly
Often times, the best advice comes from someone who has “been there, done that.” There’s a new breed of peer-to-peer education companies that offer a lot of education focused on issues specific to online marketing, especially startups.
Skillshare is a platform for anyone to teach and find an audience. It’s mostly local classes in New York and California, but they recently introduced online classes accessible to anyone. Most classes tend to be one off vs. a part of a series. Pay close attention to teacher reviews, as quality can vary.
General Assembly, on the other hand, is routed is a company with physical campuses across the world focused on fostering entrepreneurship. Their classes, including some online options, are more curated experiences. Their courses are much more structured and extended options, with an equally large price tag.
5. Get Authoritative Charts at Emarketer
EMarketer takes popular research reports, like Pew Internet and comScore, and packages their insights into digestible chunks and charts. Chances are that, if you’ve ever attended a conference, you’ve seen one of their charts in a presentation, e.g.:
Their site features an array of recent charts and articles, but the full research is only available by pay, though you can usually find what you need with some creative Googling or by perusing their Facebook album. You can also subscribe to their popular newsletter and just archive the old issues for future research.
6. Buy Industry Reports from Shop.org or Econsultancy
If you’re looking for research about ecommerce, Shop.org is one of the best associations for ecommerce specific data. They collate a lot of research from their members and sponsors. Original research is exclusive to members, which starts at $1,500.
EConsultancy, based in the UK, produces original research and compiles third-party data with market data, best practice guides, supplier selection, template files, trends and innovation and event presentations from their conferences. The silver level of membership is $495 and gives you access to all of their research.
7. Marketing Charts
Marketing Charts does one thing: they take existing research from other sources, pull out the interesting data and put it into a chart, e.g.:
Their archives are navigable by media type and fully searchable. Their sources, however, aren't always as authoritative. Make sure you review the content producer before you use the chart.
8. Find a Presentation on Slideshare
Conference presentations are useful, but often inaccessible if you aren't flying across the country and paying thousands of dollars to attend.
9. Industry Associations
Most channels have a non-profit industry association designed to educate and promote, which includes a lot of free and paid research. Here are some examples:
- Interactive Advertising Bureau
- Mobile Marketing Association
- Word of Mouth Marketing Association
- Email Experience Council
- Digital Analytics Association
10. Ask People on LinkedIn and Quora
Make sure you do a search before you post a question. Responses vary wildly in quality, so review the respondent. Be prepared for a lot of sales people pitching their wares.