By Jack Miles
The research & insight industry press uses January to share opinions about what the industry should change in the year ahead. This focus is often on new tools we ‘need’ to adopt and skills we ‘must’ acquire. This frequently results in buzz-word overload and a hyper-focus on technology.
Conversely, there’s less focus on what we shouldn’t change. What you should shouldn’t change is more important than what you should. No business will succeed abandoning what it knows to pursue a trend. No business will have longevity if it changes what it’s about annually. And most importantly, if a business doesn’t maintain consistency it will confuse its customers and risk churn.
So, before going voice-crazy or re-branding any set of programming instructions as an ‘automated solution’ here’s what market researchers shouldn’t change in 2019:
Continue Putting People First
Research is a people business. Our participants and our clients are people. Make sure that we continue to treat them as such by respecting their time and purpose. Let’s not put participants through confusing and lengthy surveys. Similarly, let’s not expect clients to wade through 100 PowerPoint slides to get the information they need. By respecting time, people will stay interested in both participating in, and commissioning, research.
Keep Learning About Your Client
As research is a people business, it’s important you know the people and businesses you work for. If a client is willing to work with you, then make sure you know what your client needs on an ongoing basis. This shows you value the relationship and makes your work relevant. However, this means more than reading the executive summary of a client’s last annual report. Make sure you stay up-to-date with clients in the mainstream news, social media and industry press. Furthermore, there’s no substitute for a face-to-face conversation with your client about their daily business realities.
Maintain Focus on Evolving Objectives
The range of research tools now available has undoubtedly improved the quality of research methodologies. However, it’s easy to be blinded by the latest set of tools at the expense of a brief’s objectives. Researchers traditionally have been focussed on meeting objectives. Let’s make sure we keep this focus and not simply revert to offering client’s the latest research tool, simply because it is, well, new.
Objectives will always be all-important for our industry. However, the nature of objectives is evolving. Clients no longer want results that meet objectives – they want strategy centred round insights that deliver on objectives. Be sure to stay true to thinking strategically – not about technology, tools and tactics.
Keep Communication as King
Innovative research tools are important to our industry. Business-changing insights are critical to our survival. However, failure to communicate our research approaches and insights in a clear, client friendly way will render even the most innovative research tools and business-changing insights as useless. The integration of storytelling, data visualisation and insight management into market research means our communication ability is improving. However, as attention spans decline, and time becomes more valuable, our communication skills must continually develop. The communication benchmark we need to aim is a hybrid of: Twitter’s conciseness, Buzzfeed’s simplicity and CNN’s speed. This benchmark is high, and we still have a long way to go. Resultantly, let’s ensure we keep a laser focus on communication in 2019.
Jack Miles, Research Director, Northstar Research