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To make the best decisions for the future of your firm — whether setting marketing priorities, undergoing a new strategic initiative or developing a new mission statement — it’s essential to obtain the right insights and perspectives. That’s where these three research approaches come in: primary, secondary and internal research.
Conducting frequent and thorough research has been shown to help law firms grow faster and become more profitable. However, before you jump headfirst into any research project, it’s important to understand the purpose and limitations of each approach.
This involves enlisting a third-party market research firm to gather input and perspectives from your firm’s clients, referral sources and, in some cases, prospects. Primary research provides an external perspective and understanding beyond what you think you already know. For instance, you may discover a competitor that wasn’t necessarily on your radar, or you may learn what clients believe is the true value or benefit of working with your firm. This is ideal for gathering the necessary intelligence and perspective to set new business or marketing priorities or to uncover the need for a new strategic initiative, like a rebranding.
This refers to studies conducted by others. Though you shouldn’t rely on it solely in your decision making, secondary research can be very informative when considering new market opportunities or the needs of a particular geographic area. One key benefit is the volume of respondents. Ideally, when conducted by large research organizations, secondary research can provide statistical relevance through large sample sizes. While primary research is considerably less dependent on sample size since it is directly targeted to your firm, be cautious about relying on secondary research that doesn’t have significant volume.
Internal research is exactly what it sounds like: research conducted internally at your firm. This could be in the form of focus groups, strategy sessions or online surveys. While this can be beneficial for addressing issues within your firm — for instance, whether employee goals and firm priorities are aligned — it isn’t ideal for determining business and marketing priorities. Instead, internal research is best as part of a larger initiative that can validate or uncover outside perspectives.
Whether you have a large firm with concerns about developing a succession plan as senior partners retire or a smaller firm worried about your relevance in a competitive market, these approaches can give you the information and insights you need to achieve your goals. Ideally, you would use all three approaches to gather as much information as possible before making a big decision. However, since that isn’t always an option, it’s important to make sure you use each form of research intentionally and recognize the limitations.
With the answers to these questions, you won’t have to worry about second-guessing your decisions.
Candis Roussel is Account Director at Hinge Marketing, where she leads a team of researchers, marketing strategists, brand designers, writers and integrated marketing experts. Candis has held senior marketing roles in agency, law firm, corporate and nonprofit settings. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and a devoted Tigers fan. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @HingeMarketing.
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