Mastering research for writing effective solution briefs
A well-written solution brief cuts through market noise, presents market challenges, and clearly positions a product or service. Solution briefs broadly follow the structure of a standard value proposition canvas. They clarify the complex and tackle the technical with market analysis, high-level product/service overviews, and a clear call to action.
The effectiveness of any solution brief relies on the calibre of its underlying research. It's the research that captivates the reader's attention, while the integrity of information and quality of analysis correlate to continued reading and engagement.
In this article, "Mastering Research for Solution Briefs," we examine the resources necessary to craft an impactful solution brief. We will arm you with the skills to scrutinise sources meticulously and seek credible and compelling data to elevate your solution-focused sales documentation.
So where do you begin?
Having recognised the influential role a well-conceived solution brief plays in the sales and marketing of technical products and services, you're ready to get creating.
These powerful documents are tailor-made to deliver precise messages to distinct customer groups. Pinpointing reliable and credible sources of information is paramount, and your solution brief should draw strength from substantial evidence such as complex data, statistics, industry insights, and compelling case studies. This robust foundation empowers you to convince your audience of the merits of your proposed solution convincingly.
Tackling the Flood of Online Data
The digital age presents a unique problem often termed 'information overload' or 'infobesity.' While this sea of information can offer invaluable insights and comprehensive analysis, it also makes it increasingly challenging to locate reliable, pertinent data.
A Google search for "find sources for writing a solution brief for a SaaS company" brings an astonishing 49,700,000 results, illustrating the vast scope of data that's accessible online. In addition to this initial search, there's an array of other potential resources such as expert blogs, academic journals, research papers, case studies, peer reviews, and reports from leading consulting firms like McKinsey and Gartner.
While the sheer volume of data online can seem intimidating, a well-planned strategy can turn this challenge into an opportunity, allowing you to find and harness the most applicable and convincing data for your business solution brief.
Diving into the Three Pillars of Quality Research: Reliability, Recency, and Relevancy
Check the author's credentials, examine the methodology used in the study, look for peer-reviewed material, and cross-verify the information with trusted sources.
Leverage the most current and up-to-date market data to provide accurate and relevant insights is crucial. Update your data sources and focus on the most recent publications, reports, and market trends to ensure your brief reflects the current situation in your industry.
Identify relevant keywords to narrow your search parameters and utilise specialised databases or platforms specific to your industry. This precision-driven approach ensures that the information you're using directly addresses the unique factors, trends, and challenges in your space.
Evaluating Market Data for Reliability, Recency, and Relevancy
Consider the following:
Examine the source's credibility, considering their expertise level in the field and whether they have a history of producing accurate and reliable information. Look for credentials, affiliations, or peer reviews that support their arguments/findings.
Cross-referencing the information with multiple sources. Multiple sources providing similar data or findings signal that you've found the industry consensus.
Citations and references
Check if the data is supported by proper citations and references. Citations add credibility to the information and enable you to trace back to the original sources. A lack of citations or an excess of anecdotal evidence and opinion are all red flags for potentially unreliable information.
Always prioritise recent data; it's far more likely to reflect current market conditions. This is particularly important for dynamic industries where trends change rapidly. Try to avoid any sources or studies that are more than 2-3 years old.
Relevance to the problem
Solution briefs are about finding highly specified solutions to a clearly identified problem. Generic or outdated information won't provide the insights needed for an effective solution brief that sells.
Review studies, reports, or analyses conducted by reputable experts or organisations. Their findings can provide valuable insights and add credibility to your solutions brief.
Identifying and Evaluating Source Material for Your Solution Brief
When compiling data and content for your solution brief, a critical step is the evaluation of your information sources. Here's a guide to each category - industry publications, expert blogs, academic research, and case studies - detailing their strengths and weaknesses:
Examples: Gartner, McKinsey, Forrester
Information provided: These are often the go-to sources for reliable and current information about specific industries. They provide insights into trends, recent developments, market data, and expert opinions.
Strengths: Industry publications are produced by reputable research firms or organisations focusing on specific sectors. They usually offer highly relevant and timely information, provide in-depth analyses, and often have a high level of industry credibility. They typically cover a broad spectrum of topics, offering a comprehensive view of the industry, including market size, emerging technologies, and strategic recommendations—an excellent and highly trusted source.
Weaknesses: Access to some content might be limited or require subscription fees. They may lean towards promoting specific industry trends or products, which could introduce bias. They may not offer detailed information or solutions for your product/service/industry niche.
Examples: Harvard Business Review, Accenture Insights, IBM Research
Information provided: Blogs authored by industry experts or thought leaders can provide valuable insights, personal experiences, and unique perspectives, including actionable recommendations that can be applied in a real-world context.
Strengths: Authored by thought leaders, industry experts, and researchers with specialised knowledge, experience, credibility, and world-class reputations. They often offer real-time commentary and interpretations of industry trends and events. The informal nature of blogs can also make complex concepts more accessible.
Weaknesses: While expert blogs can provide valuable insights, as they're based on personal perspectives, they may be subjective and may not always provide a balanced view. Also, the accuracy of the information provided may not be peer-reviewed or fact-checked as rigorously as other sources.
Examples: MIT Technology Review, Statista
Information provided: These are scholarly articles or studies conducted by academics or researchers in the field. Academic research offers rigorous analysis, statistical data, theoretical frameworks, and empirical evidence related to a specific research question or area of study, and they are often peer-reviewed, ensuring high standards of quality and reliability.
Strengths: They provide in-depth, rigorous analyses and are generally highly reliable. They often introduce new theories or findings that can be valuable in forming your strategy.
Weaknesses: Academic research can sometimes be difficult to interpret due to its academic language. They may also lag behind the current industry trends due to the lengthy publication process.
Examples: Nielsen, Euromonitor, Parks Associates
Information provided: Case studies offer detailed real-world examples of strategies, problems, solutions, and outcomes, often providing practical insights.
Strengths: Case studies offer detailed real-world examples of strategies, problems, solutions, and outcomes, often providing practical insights into how organisations have addressed challenges and achieved positive results. They explain benefits and features, including a before and after comparison highlighting the quantifiable benefits of adopting proposed solutions.
Weaknesses: Case studies usually focus on a single instance, which may not represent broader trends or apply to different contexts. Also, case studies might not always disclose all relevant information due to confidentiality issues. Plus, a company may also only share its wins.
Exploring Trustworthy Information Sources
Here are 20 credible sources to focus on when researching:
- Gartner: Gartner is a leading global research and advisory firm that provides insights, advice, and tools for leaders in IT, finance, HR, customer service and support, legal and compliance, marketing, sales, and supply chain functions across industries. They specialise in providing in-depth market research, analysis, and forecasts, often visualised through their well-known "Magic Quadrants."
- McKinsey & Company: McKinsey is a renowned management consulting firm that serves businesses, governments, non-governmental organisations, and not-for-profits. They help their clients make significant and lasting improvements to their performance and realise their most important goals, focusing on strategic management.
- Forrester: Forrester is a premier research company providing advice on technology's existing and potential impact across various industries. They offer a wealth of resources, including reports, forecasts, and insights related to consumer and business technology.
- IDC: The International Data Corporation (IDC) is a global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. They offer data-driven insights to IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community.
- Harvard Business Review: HBR is a general management magazine from Harvard Business School that aims to provide professionals worldwide with rigorous insights and best practices to lead their organisations more effectively. They cover many topics, including strategy, leadership, and innovation.
- Deloitte Insights: Deloitte Insights is the research division of Deloitte, a professional services firm. They publish articles, reports, and studies across various sectors, providing insights on significant business trends and challenges.
- PwC Insights: PwC Insights is the thought leadership arm of PwC, another major professional services firm. They offer reports and insights on several industries and business areas, focusing on audit and assurance, tax, and consulting services.
- Bain & Company: Bain & Company is a top management consulting firm that advises companies on strategy, operations, technology, mergers and acquisitions, and more. Their Insights page provides articles, briefs, and reports on various topics, offering data-driven insights and industry-leading perspectives.
- Accenture Insights: Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services in strategy and consulting, interactive, technology, and operations. They offer a wealth of reports and articles on various industries, emphasising digital transformations and innovation. Their insights cover a broad spectrum, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud services, cybersecurity, and more.
- Boston Consulting Group (BCG): BCG is a global management consulting firm known for its work in business strategy. They provide insights and solutions to private, public, and non-profit sectors across various industries, such as technology, media, consumer goods, health care, and energy.
- KPMG Insights: KPMG is one of the world's leading professional services firms providing audit, tax and advisory services. KPMG Insights is their research and analysis division, providing thought leadership in various sectors, including financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail.
- EY Insights: EY is a global professional services network and one of the largest accounting firms. EY Insights provides research and analysis across a broad spectrum of industries and business functions, focusing on assurance, tax, transaction, and advisory services.
- IBM Research: IBM Research is one of the world's largest and most influential corporate research labs, exploring new technologies and innovations that will shape the future of our society. They cover areas such as AI, blockchain, quantum computing, and cloud computing.
- MIT Technology Review: Published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the MIT Technology Review aims to bring about better-informed and more conscious decisions about technology. They provide analysis of new and emerging technologies and their potential impact on business and society.
- Nielsen: Nielsen is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view of consumers and markets worldwide. They focus on consumer behaviour, particularly media and retail.
- Statista: Statista is a leading market and consumer data provider, covering more than 600 industries and markets. They aggregate data from reliable sources into easy-to-use charts and infographics.
- Euromonitor: Euromonitor is a renowned global market research company providing strategic intelligence on industries, economies, and consumers worldwide. They cover sectors like beauty and personal care, consumer electronics, retail, and travel.
- CBInsights: CBInsights is a tech market intelligence platform that analyses millions of data points on venture capital, startups, patents, partnerships, and news mentions to predict emerging trends.
- Dun & Bradstreet: Dun & Bradstreet is a global leader in providing commercial data, analytics, and business insights. They focus on risk management, sales and marketing, and supply chain management.
- Parks Associates: Parks Associates is a market research and consulting company specialising in emerging consumer technology products and services. They focus on digital media and platforms, connected home systems, and consumer electronics.
Transforming Information into Insight
The calibre of a solution brief hangs on the careful selection and insightful interpretation of information sources. It's imperative to sift through sources based on their reliability, recency, and relevancy to ensure the brief is accurate and credible.
Each source type carries unique advantages that can significantly improve the depth and breadth of your solution brief. Industry publications, armed with detailed industry analysis and the latest trends, furnish the bigger picture, setting the stage for your solutions. Expert blogs give practical insights and actionable takeaways that lend credibility and resonate with the reader.
On the other hand, academic research, with its meticulous analysis and empirical evidence, instils confidence, particularly among senior business leaders. They provide hard facts and robust data to leaders contemplating significant investment decisions.
Case studies serve as powerful narratives of success that provide much-needed context and offer social proof. These success stories not only help clinch major deals but also guide prospective clients along their buying journey.
Crafting a compelling solution brief is an exercise in gathering, synthesising, and presenting diverse insights. By drawing upon a wide range of credible sources, you can develop a solution brief that not only addresses your client's needs but also positions your products and services as the answer to their business challenges.
Your Partner in Crafting Compelling Solution Briefs: AXD Agency
At AXD Agency, we specialise in researching and creating impactful solution briefs. Our team of experienced researchers and skilled writers have a deep understanding of market analysis, strategic insights, and content creation.
We adhere to robust methodologies to gather precise and trustworthy data, guaranteeing that the insights in your solution brief meet the highest quality standards. Our strategic process involves aligning your services adeptly with the needs and challenges of your target demographic. The result is a compelling brief that strikes a chord with your audience and effectively underscores the unique value proposition of your solution.
Crafting a solution brief doesn't have to be a daunting task. With AXD Agency by your side, you can count on our expertise throughout the process. Reach out to AXD Agency today and let our team assist you in creating a solution brief that captivates your readers and delivers meaningful results.