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A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Strategic Research Roadmap
Research roadmapping, at its core, serves as a strategic blueprint to map out the primary research a business needs to conduct within a specific timeframe, typically a year. While simply brainstorming and recording all potential research needs in the year is a useful exercise to help identify budget, prioritize resources, and set stakeholder expectations, a well-crafted research roadmap can unlock even more value for your business. This blog will outline the steps to creating a research roadmap that will maximize the impact on your company’s bottom line.
STEP 1: Outline Your Business Goals
You may be tempted to jump right into the research you know is needed, but it’s important when creating a roadmap to start at the very top of the pyramid. What is your business trying to achieve this year? What are the main KPIs? Identify 2-3 of the most important objectives for the business with input from top leadership.
For example, say you are working for a popular podcast in the midst of an economic downturn. From leadership, you understand the company’s number one priority for the year is to grow overall listeners to promote continued ad revenue. The company secondarily hopes to attract a new “premium” paying customer base to open an additional revenue stream.
STEP 2: Outline Your Business Strategies
Now, it’s time to go a step deeper. For each of the objectives identified above, determine how your business is attempting to address these goals. What new products/services, campaigns, or improvements is your business investing in? Speak with internal stakeholders and cross-functional leadership to identify 2-3 big initiatives per objective. As possible, also note how the team plans to measure the success of each strategy.
Using our podcast example, the company may promote listener growth by regularly promoting listener reviews and referrals on its own podcast, as well as collaborating with other podcasts to gain exposure to new listeners. To increase listener revenue beyond simple donations, they are starting a premium monthly membership program with merchandise, exclusive content, and member forums to allow listeners to interact with experts and each other.
STEP 3: Outline Your Learning Opportunities
For each of the key strategies, what information do you need to support these strategies? What insights do you need, both before and after the initiatives are put into place, that will help these strategies succeed? To ensure a reasonable scope to this exercise, focus on opportunities that you personally can affect in your role.
Say you are a Customer Insights Manager. There is a usability team that will be managing website/content analytics and a marketing team that will track cross-promotional conversion. Your role entails speaking directly to customers to gain deeper understanding of preferences and behaviors. To support new customer growth, you may want to determine which podcasts are most popular among those listeners who are also interested in the primary topic of your podcast so you can inform which podcasts to partner with. To support increased listener revenue, you would want to get customer feedback to determine and optimize the types of benefits (including merchandise, content, and other perks) that are most likely to get listeners to sign up for a premium membership.
STEP 4: Map Opportunities to Specific Data Gathering Approaches / Methodologies
Now that you know key insights of interest, you need to uncover the best way to gather these insights. Can you track data through existing platforms? Secondary sources? When do you need to speak directly with your audience? What research approach best fits what you’re trying to learn? This process can be daunting, especially as it is near impossible to be familiar with all potential data sources and research methodologies out there. This is why it is critical to bring in your internal stakeholders as well as trusted external partners to consult at this stage. Note that specific learning opportunities may require several different methodologies or sources to get a complete picture that will inform business strategy.
Let’s dig in specifically on optimization of customer offerings for a new premium membership. You may want to conduct focus groups with those who are most likely to sign up for a premium membership to uncover their current behaviors as well as potential desires. Then, you may want to run a quantitative feature prioritization study to determine at scale what potential members would consider table stakes, delighters, or even unnecessary benefits to help prioritize your roadmap. Later, you will likely want to test individual ideas for merchandise, content, or messaging to determine what is most popular.
Here is a simple version of what the prep work in our example looks like so far:
STEP 5: Create a Detailed Execution Plan
You now have an ideal map of everything you would like to learn. However, this stage is where the realities of cost and timing come into play. You must finalize the details of your ideal plan, including target audience and research partner/source, then prioritize to determine when each would be conducted and how much will fit into your overall budget. This may result in a specific research calendar, or simply a prioritized list to move forward with.
From in-depth exploratory interviews to agile quantitative prioritization methods to refinement sessions – you use your listener community to gather feedback on premium membership preferences and behaviors where cost of research is much lower. To explore new audience growth, you decide to prioritize a single focus group and follow-up survey with purchased panel sample to efficiently gather feedback on potential partner podcasts.
Here’s an example of how you can lay out your detailed plan:
Your roadmap is finalized. But wait – you’re not done!
After The Roadmap
There are a few critical pieces of success when implementing your roadmap with your team and/or research partners.
- Ensure the roadmap is used when designing and reporting on your research. It should be clear how the research is supporting key business objectives, so results are focused on actionable insights.
- Be ready to pivot! Planning sets you up for success, but having the flexibility to pivot your approach based on learnings will ensure you get the most benefits out of your research.
By choosing a team and solutions that can accommodate these elements, you have successfully completed your research roadmap.
“A pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision.” Eric Ries, The Lean Startup
Maximizing Impact with Research Roadmapping
This top-down approach to research roadmapping will allow you to maximize your impact on the business in the most efficient way.
A well-structured research roadmap is the compass that guides a business toward its objectives, ensuring that each step taken is purposeful and aligned with overarching goals.
See how Fuel Cycle can optimize your research roadmap today! Let’s chat >