If you have ever done or reviewed marketing research, how often have your reactions fallen into the following categories?
- This totally misses the boat
- Maybe it’s good, but I don’t think anyone will get it
- It’s a nice confirmation of things we already know
- I learned something new that I can use right now
Obviously the aim is the last bucket, but I’d venture only 20% or so falls in it, and some might argue that’s generous.
Setting aside that some research is just badly conceived and done; the biggest problem may be that market research is a discipline of methodology vs. a discipline of outcome. Without any context for what to expect for outcomes, most organizations buy market research on the criterion of methodological soundness. The fact is you can have the best, most sound data, and often you cannot move organizations in a new direction. So even the 20% that might be highly sound – perhaps half the time the organization listens and acts accordingly. That’s a 1 in 10 chance of making something real happen with marketing research. Baseball won’t tolerate those odds, let alone business.
Since everyone knows that consumer and customer driven business is a valuable thing for almost all companies, how much ROI must be locked up in the mere difference between doing good work and having it actioned well or at all…let alone the difference in doing good vs. bad work?
One way to both unlock opportunities and overcome poor work is to fiercely make market research outcome focused vs. methodology focused.
There is no one-size-fits-all-companies approach to driving more impact from market research. However, there are some basic, but tough questions that should be answered prior to every project.
1) What does success look like, especially if it can’t really be financially validated in the near term? It is necessary to be highly tactical and specific
2) Given our desired success, in what time frame can/must it be achieved?
3) How can we assess success in 2 months, 6 months, 12 months, etc.?
4) What is our internal ‘marcom’ plan for the research results and success outcomes?
5) How will we know if our marcom plan is effective?
6) How will we communicate our final outcome so that company leadership sees the linkage with what we have done?
A more outcome-focused approach to market research should result not only in better outcomes, but in better organizations. Individuals and teams responsible for developing marketplace insights and evaluating concepts will expand their capabilities, both by keeping end goals in mind, and by utilizing additional methodologies to drive business performance. They’ll get better at communicating their findings and recommendations, and business leaders will take note.
Start with the questions above to set an outcome management and communication plan. Refine and revise them. And keep asking them as you move through each research initiative.