Market Research with Impact

One of the recent Research Daily Reports that Bob Lederer has posted on YouTube has stuck with me.  This showcased David Santee’s (former client side MR) views on becoming a trusted advisor.  I do recommend watching it.

His views dovetail very closely with what I have been saying about interaction.  To recap, McKinsey has identified that the types of jobs in which interaction are crucial are the growth jobs of the future. But when we in Market Research focus on getting our projects done and not on making sure they get incorporated into the companies DNA (David Santee’s words, not mine), then we aren’t doing the interaction part of our job very well.  When we think our reports will speak for themselves and don’t work on how to ensure they get acted upon,  we aren’t doing the interaction part of our job very well.  When we avoid meetings as a waste of time, and then complain that the brand team are idiots because they ignored what we wrote in our report, we aren’t dong the interaction part of our job very well.

I’ll repeat what I said in my back to basics entry.  The purpose of marketing research is to help a company increase sales.  If you aren’t working towards that, if you think your job is to create reports, then you aren’t doing your job.  No wonder senior leadership of MR departments is sometimes drawn from outside MR, such as the example that David Santee cites.  I saw that first hand several years in a department I was in. Back then, I didn’t get the reason, but I do now.  It’s a failure of Market Research to look beyond their work to what the impact of their work is.

David Santee has some good recommendations for change at the senior level which  you can see on the video, and I’ll add ones here for how to get this thinking further down into the organization.

  • Adding into people’s objectives things that measure the impact their research has had.  Perhaps, how often their research solved the problem for the brand or pointed to a new direction,
  • In status meetings, don’t just talk about active project status, talk about what efforts people are making to ensure that their previous research is being implemented.
  • In department meetings, highlight people or projects that changed the brand or company’s direction.
  • Make it mandatory that MR staff take a course or read a book on the topic of persuasion and identify one thing that they can do to ensure their ideas get listened to
  • Mandate that employees attend meetings at which they might have a chance to affect the decisions being made, regardless of whether it is based on their research.
  • And (echoing what Mike Garcia has added in his comments) get your vendors involved in making sure the project has impact!

I am sure there are other ideas that you can come up with and I’d love to hear them, and what happens when you start implementing them.

2 responses to “Market Research with Impact

  1. Good points as always Karen!

    The main thing I love about my job as a market researcher, apart from the learning process that happens with every new project, is feeling like I’m making a real impact on my clients’ business.

    Throughout the process of working with product teams, I focus on listening closely as they talk about the context of the situation as well as their direct research questions. Helping clients resolve their business needs can go beyond just answering the market research question at hand (or occasionally they don’t really have the right question in mind, or it’s not “framed” correctly).

    I think that’s our real job as market researchers – to understand the product team’s issues and then to marry that with their customers’ issues/concerns and try to triangulate between them, and provide direction to our clients as they try to meet their own customers’ needs.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that as an outside vendor it can be extremely frustrating when a market research client at a company keeps you out of the loop or limits your access to the product team. I’ve seen that some companies actually have protocols for this (other times it’s just the market researcher themselves) – where you never get to actually meet/talk with the product team prior to doing work for them. This is not the kind of work that I enjoy. The idea of building “trust,” which was mentioned in the video clip, comes to mind here.

    The customer relationships that I value most are not necessarily the largest accounts, but those with whom I know I can rely on to tell me what really keeps their team up at night, and where they know that me and my team will be up too, thinking about the same issues – so they can trust that we’ve thought about the research question as well as the big picture. Thus, they value my judgment and insights for decision-making.

    At the end of the day, any positive impact I can make on my clients’ business makes me feel like a job well-done.

    – Mike Garcia

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