As sourcing professionals, we are constantly conducting market research to support our clients' needs. If we are assigned a project in a spend category we are unfamiliar with, we must research the category so that we have the market intelligence to provide educated recommendations. Once a project gets underway, we research suppliers in the industry that would be a good fit for the project requirements. If we are tasked with a benchmarking exercise, we conduct research to gather rate cards and understand industry trends that would impact our clients. These are just a few of the reasons sourcing professionals do research on a daily basis; therefore, it is essential that we are equipped with the right tools to conduct research efficiently. In this post, we share some of the tips and best practices we have developed at Source One for conducting market research.

Be Open-Minded.

When you are given a research topic, you develop pre-conceived notions about the path your research is going to take based on your existing knowledge of related topics. It is important to use these initial ideas to formulate a plan of attack for how you will approach your research topic. However, it is important to remain open-minded to new direction your research may take. Having tunnel vision about the direction your search "should" be taking can prevent you from exploring alternative paths that may lead you to the answers you are looking for.

Search from Every Angle.

While you need to remain open to your search potentially changing courses as you progress, these alternative courses may not always be obvious. Often times, we have to strategize how we will discover these different paths to finding the answers to our research needs. Here are a few tips we have developed for using alternative means to finding your search results:

  • As you read through various sources, make note of common phrases and terms that are relevant to your topic - these keywords can lead to results you otherwise would have missed.
  • Along the same lines, when conducting research on a specific industry, look at suppliers' websites to see how they describe their industry and the terms they use.
  • When identifying alternative suppliers, if you notice a supplier advertising that they have won an award, check to see if any of the previous winners of that award meet your requirements.
  • Utilize the embedded hyperlinks and citations in the sources you are finding as a way of going straight to the source of the information.

Know When to Stop.

One of the biggest struggles when doing research is knowing when to stop. If you are not finding the information you need, it is difficult to know when to keep looking versus when to stop "spinning your wheels". Unfortunately, there is no standard amount of time one should spend searching for results before you switch gears or stop what you are doing. Knowing when to stop so that you aren't spinning your wheels is very subjective, but we have been able to come up with some tips for how to prevent this. 

  • Have a general timeline in mind for how long you would like to spend on this research. If after a good portion of this time you are still not finding the result you need, take a step back. 
  • If possible, break up your research into increments of time rather than trying to finish all searching in one straight shot. By taking a break, you are able to clear your mind and allow new ideas or a new search direction to come to you.
  • Change the direction of your search. Look at your topic from every angle - if you are not finding your results from following one approach, switch directions.
  • Use your colleagues to get a new perspective by talking out the issues you are having, bounce ideas off of them, or see if they have suggestions for how to frame your search.

Validate Your Sources.

Above all when conducting research for clients, make sure you validate your sources of information. If you are using a blog as a resource, research the author to make sure they are reputable sources. Try to find as many sources as possible with the same information to confirm that the information is credible. Market trends and pricing are constantly changing; therefore, make sure that you are using the most current information. As a general rule-of-thumb, the information should be no more than 10 years old. Your clients are relying on you to provide them with accurate and relevant information to make the most informed decisions. It is essential, then, that your market intelligence comes from reputable sources.

Whether it's to gain subject matter expertise or to complete a market research project, sourcing professionals are conducting market research on a regular basis. Therefore, having the right resources and best practices at your disposal for market research is essential to supporting clients and their needs.

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Megan Connell

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