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Starting with the end in mind: how to make sure your research doesn't just gather dust

There is often a fundamental disconnect between researchers and those at the helm of business, responsible for implementing research insights.

This is a big problem when we consider each role is rendered obsolete without the effective operation of the other. Many marketers and researchers alike fail to fully grasp the difference between data, insight and actionable intelligence – they are not interchangeable terms and they are all required to make effective use of marketing intelligence.

What’s infinitely more important than data itself – especially as it becomes increasingly accessible – is how effectively you actually use the information that is available to you.

Market research is the key to efficiently pleasing more of your customers more of the time, with limited resources, in an environment of increasing market competition to own the customer relationship. It’s about having the right conversations, with the right people, at the right time. However, this won’t work by just ticking a box by spending allotted research budgets, walking away with an expensive doorstopper (i.e. ‘the report’) and then expecting change to occur.

Market research has been traditionally preoccupied with its own analytical methods rather than how it can be put into practice within the wider marketing context and effectively applied in CRM systems. This has isolated and limited its value.

Research is but a means to an end – and this end is implementation. The process is not static and must evolve with continuous feedback loops that assess interventions and tweak responses i.e. “rinse and repeat”. This needs to be a tight loop that seeks to shift the dial towards proactive rather than reactive. It is not just about informing marketing strategy and product development – it also requires implementation throughout the organisation down to the customer-facing coal face.

At CoreData, we like to think of this process as “Action Research”. Action Research requires a steady focus on outcomes and understanding of the capacity of the business to implement research findings. The success of the research is then judged on its ability to provide pragmatic actionable intelligence – and ultimately the business' ability to implement these on the ground. Implementation utility is the key to success.

So how do we get there? We need to address some key questions at the outset.

How does this fit into the big picture? - Is the research integrating with other strategies and research being undertaken by the business? What synergies across the business can we seek (for example between product offer, marketing, communications, branding, advertising, CRM, initiative programs, technology etc.)?

What are we really doing here? – We need a crystal clear view of what we want to achieve and how the research will be used. It is important to establish a realistic scope, as we can’t solve every problem the business has ever encountered in any one piece of research.

Are we doing this the right way? – Are we re-inventing the wheel or really building on past learning? We need to leave no stone unturned so that resource capacity meets best practice approach to ensure maximum utility and accuracy.

What are we doing to ensure the research is implemented effectively? – Will there be P&L responsibilities linked to the research outcomes? Is there an integration plan across the organisation’s departments? Is persistent follow up of the research planned as an evolutionary process?

Reverse engineering

If it’s all about implementation, we need to keep our focus firmly on outcome utility. We need to reverse engineer – making sure the design of the research anticipates these needs and limitations when it hits the ground as actionable intelligence weaving across different functions of the business. This is the lens through which we need to assess value.

Market research should follow a transparent process to ensure key decisions are made early and with input from the right people.

Transformation is rarely effective if imposed by third parties. Stakeholder buy-in is critical to the success of segmentation studies, because unless the intended users of the research understand and credit its results, it will be useless.

Developing successful Action Research involves careful preparation, planning, communication and collaboration. By seeing how a business will work with expected output, researchers should refine the study design and suggest ways to best leverage the research investment by considering specific initiatives.

Patting ourselves on the back for feeling insightful is merely a distraction if we are ineffective at implementing the change suggested. Ultimately this all comes down to one truth no one can escape in today’s increasingly competitive customer-centric paradigm – implement or die!

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This article was adapted from an article originally published by CoreData's Head of Research, Tai Rotem

Follow Kristen on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristenturnbullcoredata 

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