Wednesday, 21 February 2007

The Pot Of Gold At The End Of The Research Department Rainbow

One of, I guess you could call it my specialties, in my consulting practice, is going through piles and piles of client research. So often the research departments (or the myriad of different names for them including marketing intelligence, customer knowledge etc.) are almost like libraries within corporations; Vast knowledge centres that are rarely used except by a few. Here are some of my thoughts as to how to get your research department greater utilization within your organization:

1. Make the research department PART OF the marketing planning process

- they should be brought in at the earliest stages rather than after the fact to validate or invalidate marketing’s assumptions

2. Research depts should morph into being the active voice of the customer/general public
- if companies want to be more consumer centric they need to bring that consumer into the discussion at the earliest stages

3. The consumers voice needs to be heard

- my philosophy is this: research departments need to become the advocate for the consumer. As the consumer advocate, sometimes they need to raise their voices to be heard. Give the customer goal a fighting chance against the business goal if they aren't in alignment

4. If the research isn't actionable, don't do it
- too much money is wasted on research that no one reads and that no one can do anything with

5. Tell them what it MEANS...answer the question WHY
- too often research is about facts rather than insights. Marketing teams need help to interpret and understanding the underlying reasons behind trends rather than just knowing the trends themselves

6. Hire insight planners
- with all the money you will save on your new philosophy of actionable research you can hire some insight planners whose jobs are to not only synthesize but analyze and get at the underlying why's

7. Learn how to present the research in a way that someone will care
- if i find something in the research that is powerful, let's say a simple market share percentage change that shocked me, i spend a great deal of time crafting the way I present that info. It's about the drama factor and it is so crucial if you want anyone to care

8. A question well asked if half answered
- spend time thinking about what you want answers for. It is often the most basic and most important questions that don't get asked until too late in the process. Take the time to do the head hurting work up front and you will get rewarded in the end

9. Context matters
- give your research department the overall context to your questions. If you ask if your customers like the colour blue the only answer you will get is yes or no. But if you tell your research department that you are trying to understand the changing trends in colours and your concern that your focus on blue may not be the right way to go, you are going to get a rich analysis that may even inform you that colour isn't the issue at all but something completely different!

10. Don't take no for an answer

- the amount of times I am told that a client doesn't really have that much research only to later find that there were actually rooms (seriously, literally rooms) filled to the brim with incredible and rich information just waiting to become actionable insights

One last thought? If you do nothing else today, go and make friends with the head of research. You just can't imagine the pot of gold you are going to find at the end of that rainbow.


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