To have great insights, you must ask the right people the right questions.
The foundation for Topline Strategy’s engagements is insights – just like every other consulting firm.
To be sure, we believe that we can deliver more significant insights on more complex projects with higher quality. Our clients seem to feel this way as well.
Topline’s unique brand of insights is due in part to its unique survey methodology. Where other firms emphasize quick, inexpensive, repeatable surveys, Topline Strategy goes to the other end of the spectrum.
Topline employs a methodology that requires more comprehensive research work but, delivers more significant results, providing greater value to clients.
There are five pillars in Topline’s approach to surveys:
- Trusting the data: Some firms will outsource surveys, and work with research companies that have their own banks of experts lined up to answer questions on short notice. These third parties have the incentive to gather experts, but not an incentive to vet them, so sometimes consulting clients can end up with misleading answers. At Topline, we do our own research to source our own experts. More than just having names, we do a deep dive to determine that we’re surveying the right person. The bottom line is that it’s not good enough to know that we’re surveying an “expert”. We need to know the type of company they work for, the size of the company, the experts relationship to the product, i.e., are they are a product owner, a salesperson, an end-user of the technology, etc., and tailor our questions appropriately.
- Details and Context Matter: No matter how thorough the survey process, there are usually questions that we wish we had asked and/or would like to have asked differently to better understand the survey respondent’s answers. At Topline, we always follow up with our experts to answer these inevitable outstanding questions. Because we know who the respondents are, we can get the answers we need, and really flesh out the survey responses and data. Context matters.
- Long, Appropriate Surveys: Some firms believe that shorter surveys – ones that take two or three minutes, maximum to complete – are better, because it requires less of an investment of time on the part of the respondents. We take the opposite approach. We provide long surveys, which usually take ten to fifteen minutes to complete. We have learned that if someone is interested in providing feedback, they won’t mind taking the time to answer relevant questions to their line of work. We also develop surveys with built-in logic – they adapt to respondents based on their job title, for instance, or if they’re end-users or support staff, project owners, etc. This ensures that survey questions are always on target.
- Agile Methodology: Some firms will make research a separate, sealed process at the beginning of the engagement. That leaves clients waiting for results. It can also produce research that gives answers to questions that the clients requested, but does not provide the insight that clients wanted. To avoid this, Topline uses an agile methodology where research findings are communicated to the client early, and on a regular basis. In fact, our research continues and informs the work and the clients throughout the entire process. In addition, the research can evolve based on client feedback and based on what we find ourselves; we aren’t afraid to change the questions in subsequent rounds of the survey process based on new information.
- Trained Staff: We feel that follow-up interviews are critical since surveys often reveal information that requires further research. Other firms outsource their interviews to third-party interview companies or have clipboard kids – a sub-specialty of recent hires who focus entirely on just doing interviews until they’re experienced enough to join the account teams. In both of these cases, employees with little real-world business experience will need to “stick to the script” with their questions, resulting in one-dimensional responses. At Topline, interviews are never outsourced, and every interviewer is a participating member of the account team, which gives them an understanding of the client’s products and solutions. When we reach out to our survey respondents with questions, we are able to carry on a real, nuanced conversation to get the additional insights that we seek.
Consulting engagements rise or fall on the quality of the insights that guide them. At Topline, we understand this, which is why we put so much time and effort into the research process.
Yes, this takes more work, and some parts of the research take a little longer. Still, the insights we glean from our survey data combined with the interviews allow us to deliver higher quality and more impactful results, leading to successful engagements.
If you would like to learn more about our survey process and our consulting services in general you can Contact us.