By Simon Chadwick, Managing Partner
For years the question of whether or not you can measure the return on research investment (RoRI) has ebbed and flowed, much as it has for the related question on marketing investment. Most of the time, opponents of the concept have held their ground and the practice has not yet become mainstream. Today, only 30% of major corporations actual measure RoRI, according to a study that we recently completed alongside BCG and Yale.
“It’s too difficult!” goes the cry. “Too much happens between the research taking place and any in-market effects!” Research should be judged on its innate quality and the degree to which it enhances understanding of the market and the consumer, not on some artificial metric tied to business performance. There’s the effect of distribution and competitor activity, not to mention media buying and the ad agency not listening. No, it can’t be done.
Well, guess what? It can be done, it is being done and when it is being done, it massively enhances satisfaction with the research function. That’s right – when a research department actually does measure return on investment, satisfaction with that department goes way up.
It is not difficult to see why: departments that measure RoI are actually proving that what they do makes a difference – has an impact – on the business. They are able to actively market themselves within their own organization. Those that don’t, can’t. “Return” in this case does not have to be all about sales or profits. It can be about cost savings achieved, processes made more efficient, insights that changed senior management decisions and other anecdotes showing how research made an impact.
How is this relevant to research agencies? Well, the agency may be one step removed from the impact that a particular piece of work had in an organization, but it can still track the perceived return through communication with the client. In doing so, you may also be doing your clients a favor by pushing them to keep a log of research impact and return. And, in doing that, you may also be in a better position to highlight to them just how much you and your agency are contributing to their overall RoI – i.e. it is a marketing tool for you, too.
So, whether or not your clients formally measure RoRI, set up your own system. Ask your clients the question – what happened after that study? What was the impact? And show them, implicitly, not only how measuring RoRi might help them but what a great value partner you are as well.