Market Research: It’s Not An End – Just The Beginning


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By Lori Childers, Senior VP.

Imagine going to see your doctor for an annual physical and he or she tells you your weight or blood pressure is too high. Hey, it happens to most of us at some point. The key is what you do with that information moving forward. Do you put together a plan, taking steps to improve your health – exercising more and eating less? Or do you simply go home, grab a bag of chips, and plunk down on your sofa to channel surf?

That’s a little what it’s like when decision-makers invest in market research and, once the insights are presented, take the big glossy report and slide it neatly onto a shelf in their office. Or, they may find the information interesting and informative but don’t put the plans in place to deliver on those insights.

The fact is, market research is never an end in itself but rather a means to identify problems and challenges affecting revenue, market share and other metrics then, as our client did so effectively, figure out how to fix them.

FROM RESEARCH INSIGHTS INTO ACTION

So, what’s the most effective way to translate market research findings into solutions that correct problems impacting your organization’s bottom line?

Two words: action planning.

Unfortunately, the biggest impediment to moving market research into action is resistance to this kind of planning. Too often, decisionmakers bark at the suggestion they should hold a full-day (or, gasp, a two-day) session to figure out what to do with the research.

Here’s a tip: Budget in action planning to your market research right from the start. The reality is you won’t find the funds later if you need to fly people in or pay for consultants’ time. And remember to socialize action planning upfront so your stakeholders know that, once the market research is complete, they’re going to be expected to provide input on what to do with the findings.

HOW TO PLAN A SUCCESSFUL ACTION PLANNING SESSION

Assuming you get people to commit to taking part in your session, here are some important do’s and don’ts to ensure its success:

  • DO enlist participants who live and breathe the issues being tackled every day, ideally a representation from across functions who will have good ideas on how to address them.
  • DO brainstorm based on themes. Themes make it easier for participants to wrap their heads around different problem areas.
  • DO develop a prioritized list of initiatives that organizations can act on. You may end up with ten improvements but narrow it down to the three to five that can give you the most bang for your buck. You’re trying to solve problems, after all, not world peace.
  • DO identify “quick wins”. The definition of quick may vary but typically you want initiatives that can be implemented and begin correcting problems in 12 months or less.
  • DO identify “cheap wins.” A $500,000 solution may be worth planning for the long term but coming up with a figurative “$5 fix” that can be implemented in the short-term with positive results may be the spark needed to show traction within an organization and demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) for the market research program.

Remember, as well, that just like market research, action planning isn’t an end unto itself either. Once your action plan is complete, your organization still needs to budget time, funds, and other resources to lead and move the improvement initiatives forward.

  • DON’T dump this responsibility onto a team member with zero time or clout to get it done. Instead, elevate ownership to someone who has a track record of getting things done.
  • DO measure, measure, measure. Measuring problem areas before and after improvement initiatives have been implemented is the only way to know for sure you’ve moved the needle. And if the initiative isn’t having the intended result in a given amount of time, course correct the initiative or find another solution.
  • DO share your market research and improvement initiatives. A recent Australian study found only 28% of enterprises had a company-wide strategy for sharing data, making it difficult to orchestrate successful customer experience (CX) improvement projects. In fact, more than one-third reported a sizeable number of their CX projects failed, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sharing information and actively planning improvements will protect your valuable market research investments.

And finally…

DON’T hide your successes – celebrate them. Tell people in your organization what’s going on and share successes (and failures too). You want everyone to know you didn’t just do expensive and time-consuming research to hear customers complain but rather you did something meaningful with their feedback to make a positive difference for the entire organization. Celebrating success – especially if you can quantify results – leads to a shared organizational understand of the ROI and value of the market research.