Editor’s Intro: I’ve long felt that market researchers don’t pay enough attention to demonstrating the tangible, monetary value of research. Research companies need to explicitly prove that their new approach to a given problem helps their client make more money than old techniques do. Client Insights Departments need to give their internal partners a scorecard demonstrating their ROI for the company. Horst Feldhaeuser of Infotools performs a service to the industry with a clarion call about the need to demonstrate our ROI, as well as strategies for doing so.
As market researchers, we often like to think of ourselves as storytellers…finding the tale our research tells and making it useful for our clients. But we don’t do this on gut instinct alone: we use the numbers we find in the data (well at least in quantitative and big data research). From a carefully curated number of respondents to the ensuing numbers and percentages we find from their answers, we rely on mathematics to create something much more.
So why aren’t we turning to the numbers when it comes to proving our own value? With shrinking budgets and increased pressure to deliver ROI, we should be using numbers when it comes to our own business practices. Just like the advertising agency that never puts an ad forth about their own services, or the media relations firm that never issues a press release on their own behalf, so the market research agency often forgets about using data to show its own value.
And that’s where it gets complicated. Proving ROI is easier said than done. Consumer insights have a unique value, that doesn’t just have to do with numbers. (I know, I know, it seems counterintuitive for a researcher to say this!)
I suggest laying the groundwork from the outset of a project can help you to illustrate value at every level. This includes thinking ahead and executing tasks such as:
Bridge the gap between the interesting (data) and the impactful (insights). This seems like a no brainer, but to some stakeholders – many of whom may be non-researchers – “data” is just a buzzword with no real tangibility. By showing that the data you are collecting is directly feeding the insights, which are then impacting business outcomes, you can help to show this correlation. Insights must be informative, actionable and straightforward enough so that everyone involved can easily digest them. You must actively communicate to stakeholders about the value of investing in research, using language they understand.
Be outcome focused. Always know exactly why you’re presenting certain insights. Be clear about the recommended action and anticipated impact. Insights that make next steps and potential opportunities obvious are insights which deliver a positive ROI. In truth, our unique value as researchers lies in our ability to move beyond providing data to providing insights; valuable insights, that allow executives to make informed predictions about future trends; strategic insights, that enable businesses to adapt to, as well as compete in, an ever-changing environment. In short? Irreplaceable insights. If your research budget is getting squeezed, this is a point you need to make very strongly.
Evaluate current methods and budgets. It often comes down to budget doesn’t it? Take the initiative to ensure that investments are being made in the most efficient and cost-effective approach. One of our clients, Orange, is a great example of executing this approach. A big chunk of the company’s research budget was being spent on production of static presentations and spreadsheets, rather than added-value deliverables that would guide decision-making across the organization. We helped their market research team redirect those dollars to create an online, interactive platform so that, in the same amount of time it would have taken to produce a few static slides, key insights data can be analyzed and shared with stakeholders to aid with decision-making. This not only helps the commercial strategy of the business, it also helps showcase the value of Orange’s research investment. Our team covers this in depth in a new guide that helps show you how to keep consumer insights at the heart of your organization.
As we come under increased pressure to clearly and consistently demonstrate our value, we need to think up front about laying the groundwork for proving ROI. Our stakeholders want us to show that we understand the business, our customers and the market. And not only that! We also must know how to use this knowledge to help the business achieve its objectives, all while proving the unique value of our work, again and again. It’s called Research Effectiveness and showcases the real impact to the business. Having been involved in many global research effectiveness awards events over the years (this year as a judge in New Zealand), this is exactly where we as an industry can show our worth and the true RORI (return on research investment).