It is that time of year.  The dreaded planning or finalization of brand plans.  During the planning process we help our clients look back and examine key measures like volume, pricing, distribution and brand health.  We use these measures to help understand what happened and to ideally make adjustments to increase the chances success in the coming year.

While you are conducting the situation assessment for your clients I would challenge you to perform the same exercise on the research you performed in 2013.  Conducting a strategic assessment on the research spending can provide a great deal of insight into how research is being used in your organization.  More importantly it can help you develop a strategy that will increase the perceived and actual value of the research function.  While asking basic questions like the mix of qualitative and quantitative research is important, go deeper and understand what percentage of your research projects were proactive (e.g., projects instigated by marketing research/knowledge and insights) and reactive (e.g., projects brought to you by the brand team to answer a specific question).  This basic question can provide a great deal of insight into the research function at your company.  If you are spending 99% of your budget on reactive research (e.g., concept tests, product research, etc.) does marketing see you as an integral resource for insights or do they view research as a place to get an answer to a specific question.

To be an effective influencer in the organization I would suggest the research function should have a healthy portion of the budget (i.e., at least 15%) set aside for proactive research.  While research groups are continually being asked to do more with less, I firmly believe a group that is proactive in identifying opportunities for the organization will be viewed as a trusted partner and expert not just a support function.  So tell me does your group fit a proactive or reactive strategy?