By Dr. Marco Vriens
In my new book The Insights Advantage: knowing how to win (2012) I discuss how firms can adopt an approach that leads to more and better insights and will lead to more insights-driven decisions. This is the second of a series of blogs that will summarize selected topics out of the book.
Marketing research and analytics are foundational tools to help firms discover compelling actionable insights. How can you “stretch” marketing research (and analytics) to get more and better insights?
- By setting finding insights as the goal and not a “specific project”. A specific project may or may not lead to sufficiently compelling insights. If it doesn’t stay with it and scope subsequent projects or analyses until there is sufficient understanding and insights.
- Review what is already known in a particular space. For example, if you need to find out how to best set a price promotion take a look at the rich literature on this topic and you will design and execute your study smarter with better results
- Use multiple sources of data. Even if you do collect survey data there is often other data available that can further shed light on the issue. Other related research, secondary sources, data on complaints and service request, Internet, etc. It could include interviewing some salespeople to get their perspective. This could also lead to a re-analysis of already existing data in addition to the analyzing the survey you had planned.
- Integrate qualitative and quantitative research. This happens quite often. However, should be done as much as possible. Qualitative is not just a pre-step to quantitative and it should be used as a source to deepen insights and put quantitative insights in context. Especially in situations where the qualitative and quantitative seem to disagree there are great opportunities to really learn something new.
- Leverage advanced or customized predictive analytics to super charge your insights. The most successful marketing research projects that lead to tangible business impact often have multiple analytical components, digging deep in the data to truly find what is driving your customers.
- Do an explicit synthesis and interpretation step; where you take the time to put all the pieces together. After all the data and analyses review what you now really know, don’t know. Don’t take a short-cut to go straight to PPT production. This is the time to take time to think how it all comes together and ask hard “So what” and “Now what” questions. Are the insights compelling? Is there a clear “call to action”, but also is more research and work needed. This is also the time to use your imagination and where you should go beyond the mere data and facts and think whether there is an underlying story that may not be fully supported by the data yet but if true could point to a compelling marketing or business proposition.
- Validation is not just something to think about at the beginning of a study where one often worries about sample size and composition or during the analysis phase where one worries about statistical significance. The key question that needs to be answered is “If I do what the research or insights tell me I should do will it indeed have the promised effect and impact”? You may have run many regression models on your survey satisfaction study and feel confident the results are robust but do you really know that if you invest in improvements in the key drivers that satisfaction will go up? This is one of the hardest parts of marketing research and analytics and yet without explicit attention to this step we can’t expect marketing research & insights to make predictable impacts.
- Work in partnership with the business. This is important for several reasons. Discussing early findings, reviewing these, and working as co-producers of the insights will lead to better insights but will also significantly increase the likelihood that these insights will be acted upon.
- Pursue foundational knowledge. The total of all the research should be more than the sum of the parts. This is related to an earlier point – move away from the project to project mind set and start setting as a goal to improve the firms foundational knowledge and understanding of its customers and markets.
- Capture the insights – not just the research. Research database are quite common nowadays. Places where the market research team stores all the PPT decks, surveys, etc. A place where insights are being stored is much less common. Yet that is Key for three reasons. First, it helps with finding new insights by combining smaller insights found across different project and can hence help building foundational knowledge. Second, it can help quickly access these insights when request come in. Especially in situations where there is not enough time to do a research project one can quickly consume what is known. Third, it becomes a tool for organizational memory. Insights still often resides in individual people who were most familiar with a project or series of projects. If they leave they take these insights with them. So, insights databases can further help with moving from embodied insights to embedded insights.