[Webinar Recap] Building Strategic Research Partnerships: How Microsoft and NewtonX Source Critical Business Insights
April 8, 2022
Leon Mishkis, COO at NewtonX, Tracy Wang, Ph.D., Senior Research Program Manager, and Zoe Dowling, Ph.D., Principal Research Program Manager at Microsoft, share key insights on developing successful research roadmaps through strategic client-vendor partnerships.
Deep into the experience economy, enterprise leaders face critical pressure to choose from over 44,000 providers in order to source the right insights that will enable them to delight their customers and lead their organizations forward. In fact, in attempts to uncover accurate competitive positioning, product-market fit, and customer feedback insights, enterprises spend $73 billion a year on market research.
But sourcing quality insights is no easy feat. The missing link? Finding the right strategic partner and co-creating a research approach that’s custom-built for complex, evolving needs.
“How do you reach the right people? How do we know that it’s not a fraudulent sample? It’s such a challenging area within our industry. I can genuinely say it keeps me awake at night—when you’re looking at your data and thinking, can I really trust what I have? Because the research that we do matters. It has impact that goes across the organization.”
—Zoe Dowling, Ph.D., Microsoft Principal Research Program Manager
No time to watch the webinar? We’ve pulled 4 key takeaways below.
1. Cultivate strategic client-vendor research partnerships with trust and communication
Successful partnerships require working relationships built on trust. Insights teams need research firms that aren’t merely providers, but knowledge partners who can augment internal teams and shed insight on feasibility on finding niche professionals. Rather than overpromising and underdelivering, research firms should be transparent about market limitations that come with hard-to-find B2B audiences. Unexpected challenges then become constructive learnings that strengthen the partnership.
2. Find highly technical B2B audiences with a custom recruited, metrics-driven approach
Microsoft’s research managers in Azure Engineering’s Customer Experience, Insights and Strategy team needed niche professionals with specific, highly technical expertise in cloud software. B2B audiences like these can’t be found through closed panels — they need to be custom recruited on the spot.
In our case, we translated Microsoft’s requirements into the NewtonX Knowledge Graph, our proprietary search engine that can scan 1.1 billion professionals. We weren’t limited to looking for the best fit in a network, but freed to search for the perfect fit from an almost limitless pool of experts. It’s quality finally meeting scale, enabled by our automation tech.
Our search capabilities also pushed our partnership to new levels. We constantly evaluated progress and incidence rates, prompting open discussion on adjusting search parameters to ensure we delivered Microsoft’s crucial insights.
“Our partnership is very metrics driven. The base of any discussion is always: What are the metrics? How many people did we reach out to and how many people responded? How many were screened and how many are passing the screeners? And then we’re looking at the metrics and asking, where’s the gap? Do we need to increase the volume or search parameters? Or is it that the people are not passing the screener, which means we might need to tweak the strategy.”
—Leon Mishkis, NewtonX COO
3. Build strong operating models to support complex research needs
Quick iterations to the research approach require strong operating models and constant feedback. Kickoff calls are key starting points to establish a culture of communication. Along with well defined project phases, it’s helpful to establish daily and weekly check-ins to ensure partners are continually recalibrating to align on shared goals. Daily updates work to track key metrics and quota progress, while weekly calls allow space to debrief strategy challenges and iterations to the fielding approach.
“Feedback is incredibly important to know what works and what doesn’t work, not just feedback on the process of collaboration — which is crucial — but also feedback on whether the experts identified are the right ones serving our business needs.”
4. Merge expertise and design hybrid quant-qual approaches for deep insights
While research firms bring expertise in market feasibilities, clients bring product expertise. Merging this specialized knowledge fuels research success.
For Microsoft, the NewtonX team ramped up on the product through technical trainings. Our project team learned the ins and outs of Azure products and how to identify red flags for users that might overrepresent their expertise. The training ensured we were sourcing the right people who could speak technically and imaginatively on the future of cloud software.
“If someone tells me they have 35 years of cloud experience, I’m flagging that as potentially fraudulent. In the end — garbage in, garbage out. Your research and insights are only as strong as the data you’re able to bring in. That’s really dependent on sourcing the right people. And to do that, we have to train for what we’re looking for. That’s part of the partnership. It means we’re enabling NewtonX to be successful.”
— Tracy Wang
Sourcing the right people also requires the right procedures. NewtonX gives our clients confidence that they’re talking to the right experts through our verification process, using phone screenings and LinkedIn or professional email matching. This ensures that professionals are who they say they are — providing quality data to inform Microsoft’s multimillion dollar decisions.
Moreover, we co-designed a hybrid quant-qual research approach for deep insights. The quantitative surveys delivered an at scale look at perception, satisfaction, trends, and behaviors. For depth, the qualitative interviews explained these trends and movements.
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