The Information Interview – or questions to ask before you answer questions.

Whether you’re doing research for yourself, or someone else – there are questions you should ask before beginning your search.

  • How will this information be used? Is a single statistic needed for a slide, or is going to be a talk-over point in a meeting? Is it to prove a point or disprove a point? Are you just looking to get up to speed on a topic or industry and want something to casually read?
  • When is this needed by?
  • How long do you think this should take me to find/synthesize?
  • What format do you want the information in?
  • What’s the budget for purchasing data/research?
  • Clarify expectations – Do you want me to do the analysis or should I send relevant documents as I find them, and/or pull out high-level points and page numbers?
  • What resources have you already reviewed?
  • Is there ongoing interest in this topic? (*if so, set some alerts!)

What should the answer look like?
Going back to my post on information source types, knowing what the answer SHOULD look like, will help you navigate to the correct source more efficiently.

Does the answer involve a series of numbers? What would those numbers be composed of? …the sum of company revenue, survey respondents, or SKU sales? Historical or projected industry revenue? How hard would it be for someone to gather those numbers in order to publish them? Is it based on publicly available information, or would it involve some person calling companies, or a proprietary system crawling the web? You can generally assume that the harder those numbers are to gather and publish, the more expensive that data will be. Here are a few broad suggestions based on my experience:

  • Historical industry data: Associations
  • Industry or product sales projections: Research Vendor
  • Market share: Analyst reports (if you have access), or for-fee company or industry reports from a lower cost vendor like ResearchAndMarkets.com.

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