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This song got stuck in my head as I was sharing my “spiel” with a prospect last week: I’m a “content-agnostic” researcher. Even though I’m not a subject matter expert when it comes to meningitis, hearing aids, life insurance, or hospital cafeteria food (to name a few of my recent projects), I always collaborate with my clients and get up to speed enough to ask good questions about anything.

Plenty of researchers are experts in particular products or medical conditions. I met someone recently who is a nurse now working in pharmaceutical research. She has forgotten more about diabetes drugs than I can ever hope to know. And sometimes, that is who you want doing your research.

I’m not an expert in any industry or product category. I am, however, an expert in survey methodology and social research. I know different methodologies and tricks and approaches and interpretation techniques, and I can apply them to all kinds of research questions– regardless of if you want to learn about how people use your widget or how they feel about your candidate, and regardless of if I’m talking to CEOs, inmates, teens, or MS patients. Here’s a list of some of the research questions I’ve helped people answer– you’ll see that they are all over the map!

This approach works for me. There are certainly times where a subject matter expert is the best researcher, but I don’t think I (or my clients) have ever regretted that I’m not “the shampoo survey lady” or “the expert on fast food focus groups.”

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