I'd like a better understanding of an issue in my industry but I don't see any published research or trends on it. How can I find out what research has been done?
There are two assumptions built into your question that may be wrong. First, that current research already exists on this topic and that you just are having a hard time finding it. Second, don't assume you can't do this research yourself.
You can hire a research company, get an intern from a local business school or college, or do the research yourself. Market research firms can provide you with insight on how to conduct research and who to target. If you are comfortable with research design and understand your market, you may want to ask for support from a local business school or executive MBA program, which often conduct low cost consulting and research services.
Here's an idea that will get you some quick information on current business conditions and trends as well as possibly good business leads. Consider conducting a quick survey targeted specifically at an issue or question in your area of expertise.
Let's say you provide strategy development for scientific companies and are curious about how such companies are planning to weather the expected recession. Use one of the many Internet survey tools like SurveyMonkey to ask a few questions about the state of the industry, alternative strategies, and expectations about how important strategic planning services are in the near term. You can create a list of potential respondents from business directories or mailing lists. Tip:
Within an hour you can create and send out a survey to a hundred or so key players in your field. Offer a copy of the results and an analysis to respondents. Use the results (whose validity depends on the response rate) to write a white paper on the topics covered. You now have some insight into your market, an opportunity to do some targeted thinking and analysis to support your white paper, and some (opt in only) prospects in your area.
P.S. Depending on the success of this approach, you might make the survey a regular - low-cost, high- visibility - research project. © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA