How successful researchers build tech-based partnerships

Mark Resnick

As a successful researcher, there’s no question that you’re busy. You have a lot on your plate. Your budget is tight. And now, you need to find a new tech platform? That takes a toll. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes money. And, in an incredibly crowded marketplace, it is hard to know what will be the right, lasting fit.

You put a lot on the line when you choose a vendor; you don’t want to be in a position where you make it through the legal, put the time in to onboard it within your organization, and then realize it’s not right for your needs.

Being able to professionally vet technology is a crucial skill to success in our industry, and is only going to be increasingly important as the landscape of tech platforms continues to grow and evolve.

Read on to learn the three key moves I’ve seen insights professionals make across the industry who are having tremendous success in bringing on their next tech-based partner.

1. Start with a mutual discovery conversation

First and foremost: Start with a mutual discovery conversation instead of a demo.

There’s a lot of cool technology platforms out there with a lot of amazing future-forward features, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to solve your exact problem. If you start by identifying the problem you’re trying to solve, you’ll be able to focus on finding the right solution.

When I switched from qualitative research to working in sales at Zappi, I noticed the most meaningful conversations were reminiscent of a qualitative focus group where both parties take turns as the moderator and respondent.

You should both go into the conversation with a research mindset, viewing the goal as finding a solution (and a partner) as opposed to a new tool. And remember, honesty and transparency go a long way in setting the stage for success.

2. Request a custom demo that’s meaningful to your world

Now that you’ve established a shared understanding of the problem you’re experiencing, it’s demo time. Not just a standard demo though — you need to make sure you’re getting a demo rooted in addressing your issues which provides answers to your specific questions.In all honesty, a demo is often misconstrued as a time to sit back and watch a sales rep drive the conversation, click buttons and show you how easy it is to use their products. But, as a successful researcher, you really don’t have time to sit through multiple hour-long sessions from various providers which will only scratch the surface of their technologies.You want to make the demo as relevant as possible so you can come out seeing first hand if it is worth pushing forward or if it’s time to part ways as friends.To make sure you’re getting the most out of your demo, make sure you do the following:

Push to uncover “How does this solve my problem?”

As you move through the demo, you should be referring back to the discovery session to directly see how the technology can decrease your identified pain points.This is the time you should see how the technology will allow you to be more consistent or repeatable with your testing process, how you’ll be able to actually test more assets without a growing budget or how you could be more agile without sacrificing data quality.You don’t have to walk away from the demo knowing everything about the platform. In fact, you shouldn’t. Rather, you should walk away with a clear picture in your mind of how the platform will tangibly fit with your business needs.

Set mutually agreed upon success criteria

No two research departments are the same. No two researcher’s needs are the same. Success for you will not look exactly the same as success to your peers. In order to know if you’ve found a lasting solution, you need customized success criteria.This approach also holds both parties accountable to work towards the agreed upon metrics. There is a greater sense of buy-in when you have a shared goal you can support each other in reaching.

Don’t rush the trial

The best time to pilot a new technology is NOT during a fire drill.You don’t want a bandage solution to your ongoing problems. You don’t want to only see how a technology functions when you’re already in a panic. And, you definitely don’t want to find that it’s the wrong solution for you when you need to churn something out before you’d have a chance to go elsewhere.You want to see how a tech-based partner will provide lasting support. This is a relationship you are building — and strong relationships don’t happen overnight.

Keep an open mind

When you start getting your hands dirty, you might find that there are kinks you weren’t expecting.That might be indicative of a red flag, but it also might just be growing pains. It’s important to come back to your success criteria. If your problem will be solved, even if it’s not exactly the way you envisioned, maybe something different is good!If the differences are so stark that the solution won’t help you, you can go back to the drawing board before you’ve dove in too deep.

3. Co-create an onboarding plan

Excellent! So the pilot went well and now you’re ready to fully roll out this new technology! You’re almost there, but you’re not quite over the finish line yet...You don’t want your shiny new technology platform to collect cobwebs in the corner of the room like that treadmill you bought during the pandemic and swore you’d use…You put precious resources into finding the right tech-based partners for you and your team, and onboarding is crucial to ensuring the partnership can reach its fullest potential.Having full access to the technology is one thing, but having a plan in place on how to use and adopt it is what sets successful customers apart from the pack.So to start, make sure you:

Focus on your goals

These platforms are powerful and complex, so onboarding helps you and your team stay focused in the early days.Go back to your initial goals and leverage the platform accordingly. Once you have an action plan on how you’ll adopt the technology, you’ll be able to establish clear ways of working without getting distracted by every shiny new feature being thrown your way.Just like with the pilot, successful researchers are working with their tech-based partners to set customized success criteria on benchmarks for 30 days, 60 days, six months and one year.

Learn from your mistakes

Having clear goals from the start makes it easy to identify if this relationship is working or not at every juncture.And, if it unfortunately fails, it gives you a framework to be even more prepared going into your next vetting process so you can build a successful partnership the next time around.

Final thoughts

Finding the right tech-based partner is certainly a challenge. You want to make sure you’re not only finding the correct solution for your specific needs, but also ensure that you’ll have a real partner on your side to set you up for success.If you’re about to embark on this journey, I hope these tips have provided you with some guidance to help build the right tech-based partnership for you and your team.If you’d like to read more content from us on building partnerships, check out our blog on the 5 elements of a great partnership.

This blog was based on a talk I recently gave at this year’s IIEX North America event in Austin, Texas. If you’d like to find out which events you can catch us at next, visit our events page.