Editor’s Note: Sometimes I find checklists valuable to keep and refer back to regularly. In the stress of everyday work, it’s easy to forget the big picture, and therefore go off track, to your later regret. John Bird reminds us of some valuable points about making sure that the research we do aids the critical mission of the companies we work for. If we can check those things off, we have a better chance of a prosperous future.
Machines taking over jobs. Budgets shrinking and demands increase. Data becoming more accessible (and not just to data scientists). As introverted market researchers, all these realities can have us biting our nails in the corner. The very things that are shifting the space can also allow us to claim a spot at the table. How? With a few simple, common-sense steps, we can move toward proving our value as insights professionals.
1. Must have better, faster and cheaper.
The same technology that some believe may be threatening our value, and replacing us, also lets us deliver on demands for accuracy and quick turnarounds. Make sure you find the sweet spot between applying your expertise and applying technology that lets you access and analyze your data in near real-time. By providing readily updated – and accessible – insights to inform key executive decisions, your work becomes an essential part of day-to-day decisive action-taking.
2. Don’t deliver doorstops – be a good storyteller.
Asking stakeholders to flip through a PowerPoint in a binder is rarely the best way to showcase your work. Make sure you have the right tools in place so that, when presenting your findings and recommendations, they are aesthetically pleasing and crystal clear. Tailored reports, and the flexibility to dig into the data in different ways to serve different people and different purposes can go a long way in making you invaluable.
3. Be curious – don’t do an awesome job answering the wrong question.
How often do we assume we know the problem and focus on the solution and key findings, only to find out we were wrong from the get-go? The key is to embrace curiosity and become a better problem finder. When we truly know the problem, it will lead to amazing findings. This means stepping back and adding a little in light of the bigger picture surrounding the prospective industry in which we are working. What are the trends surrounding the client’s industry, business model and target audiences? What is the history when it comes to demography, spending, consumer behavior and more? This can help to advise us before we start following the wrong insights.
4. Connect insight to action – if all you do is find insights, prepare to be fired.
As researchers, we must bridge the gap between the interesting (data) and the impactful (insights). Knowing exactly why you’re presenting certain insights, and how they will be applied in the “real world” can help you to hone your messages to be informative, actionable and straightforward enough that non-researchers can easily digest them. Taking proactive steps toward communicating to stakeholders about the value of investing in research, using language they understand, is vital in ensuring that insights deliver actions.
5. Maximize research investments.
Every research project represents hours of work, applying expertise to building and deploying the study, not to mention all the pre-project discovery legwork. If the data that ensues is not accessible – instantly – it starts to lose its value. Investing in intuitive, data-agnostic technology that houses your data and easily allows the relevant people to explore it is a good idea. If data is at the fingertips of the right people, and is up-to-date and easy to peruse, then it can be better applied. Gone are the days of sending an entire 800-page report and expecting the recipient to wade through it and make decisions on what to do. The right investments in technology can now allow us to maximize all the nuggets in that huge report, sending notifications and alerts surrounding goals and new data so that the stakeholders can focus on taking informed action.
6. Create an environment for doing great work.
This can mean many things depending on the makeup and dynamics of your team. One key way we’ve seen to inspire great work is by smart use of technology. With automation and machine learning, we can let the computers do the mundane, repetitive, curiosity-numbing tasks. This means that the human data experts can do more of what they do best: feed their inquisitive nature to find out what the data is telling us. They will have time to formulate perspectives and will add more expertise and value.
All of these tips will help you keep a focus on delivering value to the bottom line. In addition, with everyone keeping a close eye on the pocketbook, it’s important to closely evaluate current methods and budgets, and ensure you’re investing – or recommending investment – in the most efficient approaches. Keep communication lines open with all your stakeholders and make market research an open book for company decision making and you’re well on your way to being indispensable.