Marketing research is in a casino situation, where the feeling exists that half the money put on the table for research won’t lead to anything. Although the global annual research spend has never been this high (with around 70 billion dollars spent in 2016, according to ESOMAR figures), many corporate researchers seem to be struggling with generating research impact. Research amongst 185 buyers and users of marketing research has shown that only 45% feels their research spending actually leads to an impact. So, how can research users increase their return on insights?
While interviewing research professionals, we learned that 70% of the CMI managers’ time focusses on turning data into insights and only 30% is spent on insight detection and activation. Yet to make research more impactful, re-shifting this time distribution is essential, with the necessary time invested in understanding which research needs are wanted by the business and how to activate research insights throughout the organization. So how do we step away from the executional focus and turn the CMI manager into a valuable business partner that drives action and impact amongst stakeholders?
Insight activation doesn’t happen overnight; it requires a deliberate change in an organization’s mindset, infrastructure and culture. Yet, all big changes start with small steps, by installing small tweaks in existing processes, for example when sharing the results of existing research processes, where you engage, inspire and activate stakeholders to increase the return on insights.
Many research debriefs and presentations are attended rather passively, without any expectations or without stakeholders remembering the initial research objectives. Yet generating research impact starts right there, before the insights are presented. It is about making people curious about the research learnings and outcome, making them excited and eager to tune in and join a meeting with full attention. This can be done by creating a teaser campaign to warm up the audience, for example by hanging up posters with a few striking quotes or results from the research to trigger people’s enthusiasm to learn more.
It is also about tackling the actual research presentation, workshop or debrief moment. Far too often do we tend to bundle all take-aways in large presentations, trying to showcase a project’s ins and outs. Yet in order to make insights (and research results) stick, it is key to focus on the essence and deliver snackable content. Here the CMI team should function as a curator, filtering out only what is relevant for their audience. Next to that it is important to avoid a one-way presentation set-up, by empowering stakeholders to take up an active role and exploring quotes and insights or discuss the results during the meeting. This is a very effective way to make a story stick, as research has shown that if people find the answers themselves, they will recall them better.
A last step in increasing the impact when sharing research results is activation, where you install measures to remind stakeholders of the research learnings. This can range from occasionally sending them action points based on the research to creating check lists that allow them to immerse in the consumer reality and take these learnings forward.
Moving away from that casino situation takes time, yet it can start today by engaging, inspiring and activating stakeholders before, during and after a research debrief moment. It is about curating insights and understanding which insights should be transmitted to the business and to whom, by delivering snackable content interactively, which is not only more digestible but also leads to a higher recall and increases the likelihood that the research insights will be taken forward.
Want to learn more on how to reach better return on insights, download our new bookzine highlighting a 6-step framework towards insight activation, comprising six maturity levels with action points for today, tomorrow and the future.