Cutting Costs without Cutting Out the Experts


We’re lucky. Each week we talk to clients across different verticals and categories. We learn about their insights needs and priorities. We help them discover new research suppliers and subject-matter experts, while launching new studies to benefit their business.

Oftentimes clients reach out to us, intrigued by our model, but unsure as to how to get started. Sometimes their top-of-mind research needs may seem too customized or proprietary to work within our collaborative model.

So, we typically follow-up with some questions:

“What other business questions do you need answered? What else do you need to know that you haven’t had the budget, time, or organizational will, to dedicate to finding out?”

“What are your ‘rainy-day’ or ‘wish-list’ projects that get pushed down the priority list year after year?”

“What research are you planning to commission (or have recently done so) that isn’t proprietary and could be shared with non-competitive organizations in order to reduce your spend?”

Now the floodgates open. Clients can usually point those essential yet unanswered questions that may change how they connect with or serve their consumers. And, tellingly, their questions are oftentimes similar enough to other clients’ questions. That’s when there’s the opportunity to collaborate.

And that’s when it’s time for our work to begin. We take these business questions and research ideas and translate them to project concepts that we can share with others.

Bringing other clients into the project at the idea stage is critical because we believe that collaboration leads to better outcomes. Objectives get honed and design comes alive.

In many cases, the client who originated the research idea  acts as the “Project Champion.” They underwrite the study’s costs and get significant input into its design. They also share in the revenue of additional sales to “buy back” some of their original investment.

When we cut a check to one of our clients last year for their revenue share, I still remember the reaction: “That’s the first time a supplier sent us a check back for a project that went great!” Because of this model, they were able to launch the project on their own timetable, play a major role in shaping its design and analysis, and share the cost with non-competitive organizations,

Clients can join a project at two other levels of participation. “Collaborators” get input into the study and maybe even an abbreviated proprietary carve-out. And, “Backers” get the deliverables at a lower price point while “leaving the driving to others.”

We refer to these partnerships of interested clients as “collaboratives.” Some Collaboratives form to launch a single study. Other times they remain together to launch additional waves of a study or to launch another study of common interest together. After all, if it worked once… ! And, collaboratives take all shapes and sizes. Most have a Champion, a couple of Collaborators, and some Backers. But, some have only Collaborators and Backers. You choose the role that best fits your budget and desired level of input.

Sure, our model is different than anything else in our industry. And, it takes a little getting used to. But once our partners try participating in a collaborative and see there’s a way to dramatically cut costs without cutting out the expert, they come back. We call this smart sharing. And what we’ve learned is that collaboration leads to better outcomes. Input from different verticals, categories, and perspectives benefit the work. And, it’s often those projects that are at the end of our clients’ budgets that lead to truly transformative insights.

So let us know your research needs and hopes in 2019. There’s a chance we’ve spoken to another client or two who are asking many of the same questions.

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Jimmy Zollo is the Co-Founder and CEO of Collaborata -- a Chicago-based tech startup serving the insights and marketing research world. Collaborata is the first-ever platform that enables organizations to share research costs and insights. Collaborata was a finalist for the 2017 Midwest Digital Startup of the Year, the 2016 Insight Innovation Award and has been featured on Business Insider, BuiltInChicago, Greenbook, Quirks, Research Live, MRWeb, and Market Research World. For more information, please visit: Jimmy developed his passion and enthusiasm for the Chicago tech community, while driving growth at GrubHub for four years. He helped develop GrubHub's industry-leading restaurant network, traveling across the country to launch new markets and grow existing ones. Following GrubHub's IPO and merger with Seamless, Jimmy transitioned to the corporate team, leading partnerships between GrubHub and many of Chicago's leading law, consulting, tech, and marketing firms.