The value of research in serving your stakeholders

Maverick recently introduced its Community Engagement initiative to help publishers, societies, and associations facilitate interaction among stakeholders. In a new post for Maverick, Senior Associate Minty Colquhoun examines how qualitative and quantitative market research can be used to develop deeper connections with constituents in the publishing cycle.

To build purposeful and sustainable scholarly communities, it is essential for publishers to develop mutually beneficial relationships by understanding the needs of the various stakeholders (from authors and employees to librarians and researchers), and then to create products and services that meet those needs. The best way to acquire such in-depth knowledge is to conduct market research, using analyses to reveal the intelligence within the collected data.

This post provides an overview of the difference between qualitative and quantitative market research, explaining how and when they are best applied. It gives an example of how the resulting insights equipped a client with the means to achieve valuable goals through a deeper understanding of their many stakeholders’ requirements.

Qualitative vs. quantitative research

The most comprehensive form of market research uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques, as both involve primary (original) and secondary (pre-existing) data sources.

Qualitative, non-numerical data is used to capture information relating to individuals’ behaviour, such as user experiences, brand perceptions, or product preferences. Using open-ended ‘what,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions, qualitative data can be obtained from primary sources like focus groups and interviews, or secondary sources, such as fact sheets, product brochures, reviews, opinion pieces, and social media comments where the analysis looks for themed patterns within the word-based data.

Quantitative, numerical data is used to measure ‘how many’, ‘how often’ and ‘how much’, such as calculating online activity, frequencies of use, pricing tolerances, or tracking customer journeys. Data can be gained from primary sources like questionnaires, polls and surveys, or secondary sources, such as Google Analytics and Scholar, or publicly available annual and industry reports. Quantitative research involves analysing large amounts of numbers-based data; thus, the results are best explained using charts or graphs.

Maverick regularly uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods when conducting market research where a project’s overall objective may concern new content creation, product and service development, or, as in the case below, strategic planning.

Research in practice

An aggregator and disseminator of natural sciences publications needed support in achieving its goal of better understanding its various stakeholders’ needs. Maverick conducted market research that employed qualitative and quantitative techniques using both primary and secondary data sources (interviews, online survey, and desk research) across the client’s global network of academic, government, and corporate librarians, researchers, authors, faculty, information managers and professional scientists (including customers and non-customers).

An analysis from a full marketing audit was combined with the results from survey and interview questions relating to topics of access and user experiences, content awareness and preferences, attitudes to brand and communications. The findings identified stakeholders’ main requirements to be tailored service and content information, plus clearer messaging on product functionality and purchasing benefits.

Drawing upon this intelligence, as well as confirmation of their strong brand loyalty, and uniquely competitive position as a collaborative and community-driven organisation, the client was able to plan and achieve timely growth targets. These goals were achieved by implementing several mutually beneficial initiatives, including knowledge sharing and networking innovations, and more customised communications.

The value of ongoing qualitative and quantitative research lies in its ability to identify opportunities to build firm, lasting relationships with stakeholders through clarification of their evolving needs. A better understanding of these needs ensures the evidence-based decisions we make today in adapting to meet them can deliver increased satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty to secure tomorrow’s purposeful and sustainable scholarly communities.

To learn more about Maverick’s market research capabilities, please contact your Maverick representative or for a free consultation.

By Minty Colquhoun, Maverick, Senior Associate

With over 25 years of professional marketing expertise, Minty Colquhoun assists a wide variety of national and multi-national companies as well as SME organisations in both private and public industries.  Minty began her career with Blackwell’s Information Services where she earned a Spotlight award for outstanding service, before going on to gain wider experience within the Life Sciences and IT sectors. Until recently she was a long-time active committee member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing where she chaired the Hampshire & Isle of Wight regional branch.

Further reading

Fostering community engagement in scholarly publishing

Maverick Community Engagement Program service sheet