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Why your company does not value research

Over the last 10 years I’ve worked with a hugely diverse range of clients, based in the Americas, Europe and Asia. I have travelled the world, watching people from behind glass, poured through reams of data and spoken to countless clients. I have worked with some of the largest organisations on the planet.

I am not a psychologist. I don’t have a doctorate nor an MBA. I am, however, an expert in patterns – because as a researcher – I am trying to tie everything together, and break everything apart, so that I can understand the story. It’s not something a formal education can give. I have a BSc in Business Studies and an MA in Consultancy – but what has given me the three points below is time. Time with clients, time with customers and time thinking about what it all means.

What have I learned?

That politics, agendas, and priorities get in the way of real innovation. And research can help strip that down.

The way to maximise the value of research sounds easy, but is rarely accomplished. The golden rule is buy-in. Not just the immediate stakeholder buy-in. Not just the immediate team, but buy-in from all. From different decision makers who will ultimately decide what happens next. Only then can research be truly powerful.

Here are my three rules that ensure our clients get the maximum impact from our work.

Listen first

Involve people early on. Do an internal audit, not just from the department where the brief originates, but from all potential beneficiaries. Do this early, do this informally, and do this openly. Find out what are the biggest issues for different departments, at different levels. Not only does this help hone the objectives of the project, it connects all stakeholders to the research meaning there is not a disconnect when the results come back.

Revaluate throughout.

Work with your agency to develop hypotheses. Not just at the beginning. But throughout. Watch focus groups, listen to interviews, read the topline and engage agencies on a discussion about what this will mean to your clients

Encourage debate

When the results are in, get people in a room to discuss the action points following the debrief. Don’t let them just walk away. 2 hours can be enough. Even for the most complex projects. Demand more from your agency, not to present 100 slides, but to tell a narrative. Develop a theme, a story and get people to buy into that process. Then make them think. Set tasks within the session, split people into groups who don’t always work closely: sales, marketing, operations, c-suite. The best agencies will take this input and will ensure the insights get into the heart of the organisation.

By working in conjunction with your agency, the research will reach more of your colleges, be used more often in everyday decisions and be of more residual value than you have ever thought possible.

The writer is Philip Steggals, managing director of Kadence International.

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