If you asked a cross-section of market researchers how they justify or evaluate a given MR project, I’d guess it would be through the impact it had on a business decision. OK, say I hope that’s the outcome…..
This is likely progress versus say 5 years ago, when the response might have more straight-backed-task-oriented: was asked to do something, performed it well, client happy. So.
If impact is increasingly the name of the insights game, I wonder if we give the act (or process) of impact-creation enough thought – creating impact is often very difficult, and can be fraught with challenges.
Here’s my take on steps that Market Researchers can take to get more impact from their efforts.
- Work Backwards
Actionability is the key to MR impact; investing time in understanding what that means in more detail from the client-side perspective is worth at least a follow up phone call once you have your Insights Request Form signed off on. If there are multiple KPIs defined, prioritize. Suggest asking for input from all likely stakeholders on the research – at whatever phase is best. Try to find out who ultimately in Management will take a decision – has their POV been baked in at the design stage?
All the above requires energy – and the belief that the added input is worth it. This leads to the second point about understanding your customer needs.
- Roadmap your way to Partnership
Whether Clientside or Agency, there’s nothing more rewarding for Researchers than being treated as business partners (OK, I am biased…) – it’s something that has to be earned, often through performance, through relationship management, resulting in reputation, the key to trust.
This process happens whether we like it or not – but to an extent it can be shaped. Write a list of who you regard as key potential partners, map out a plan on how to heighten your involvement with their needs. Be your own marketing manager. Apologies for being brief here – I’m moving on in the interests of keeping this short.
- Offer targeted over-servicing
Not all customers are equal – a tricky if familiar sort of proposition, to be treated with highest discretion before you plot your own segmentation of A, B, C customers. Once you have a sense of who is responsive to what type of marketing, then up the ante on them – take care to set objectives, set a timeline, a budget, and then evaluate your ROI. Better than just relying on meta-insights on How Brands Grow….;)
Before you dismiss this one as totally obvious – believe me, it’s not as common as you might like to think.
- Provoke periodically and empirically.
Nobody likes insights that are insipid, simply reinforce current beliefs – however reassuring that may seem to the more risk-averse marketing managers.
Throwing the cat amongst the pigeons with provocative hypotheses is a technique to get your voice heard differently – looking for a pro-active role. It’s a delicate issue – framing is key to avoid upsetting apple carts… – so use phrases like “the insights from the study x in 2011 told us that” or “we know from Research amongst……(target group XYZ) that brand perceptions are…..” It’s all about building on existing knowledge, not about appearing like an opinionated know-all.
This may sound trite – but innovation is the lifeblood of every well differentiated service offering or brand. Seasoning your approach with new approaches doesn’t need to rock the boat – but it does show that you are keeping abreast of new developments, and are helping to keep the team on top of new thinking about a category.
- Embrace at least recency and frequency in your communication approach
The Direct Marketing professionals amongst you – hands up? – will be familiar with the traditional acronym of RFM: Recency, Frequency, Monetary value. Worth revisiting this for your sales and marcoms effort.
- Network like crazy.
Popularity is the goal here – and the pre-requisite is awareness. Be mentally available. Give yourself every chance of being thought of – play the availability heuristic to its full potential. Quality perceptions are likely to coincide with awareness levels (unknown? probably with good reason….) – at least that’s my hypothesis.
Well, there’s plenty more to be said on how to maximise insights impact – and the unspoken elephant in this blog piece is quality of thinking. Resonance and memorability comes from the quality of your thinking – so be as precise and acute as your time allows, and shape your desire to doing this for your most responsive customer base.
And if you’re lacking that particular piece of spark or imagination on a project – then go process, and think about some of the stuff above.. Impact can be planned for.
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.
Edward Appleton is Senior Clientside Market Research Manager.