David Smith, Finn Raben, Adam Phillips, Reg Baker, and Vanessa Oshimam conducted depth interviews with industry leaders to better understand what we should be doing to showcase the value of our customer insights. At the ESOMAR Annual Congress in Amsterdam today, David provided seven strategies derived from these IDIs for how to ensure your customer insights makes an impact with stakeholders.

  1. Position the insight team as strategic foresight consultants – Showcase the insight team’s role in futureproofing organization: navigating the future, ensuring against failures, and seizing opportunities in a timely way. Move insights away from a cost center to a value creator, seeing the big strategic picture: “We’re moving away from reducing business risk towards making sure we don’t miss an opportunity.” Top tip: Think like a strategic entrepreneur, not just a business tactician.
  2. Get organizational positioning of the insight team right – You want a clear line of sight to the C-suite and want to be seen as a strategic business partner. The best organizations will support you from the top, differentiating the organization on insights. Market research is “not miraculously found in the data but emerges from a fierce dialog between data and insights and senior management.” Top tip: Learn how to conduct the “fierce strategic dialogue” that creates insight.
  3. Get your consultative position right – A CEO once said, “Decision making is easy once someone has framed the choices.” Move away from the what’s-your-recommendation model to knowledge of the full business context, identifying opportunities, explaining risks, assessing likelihood of success, and spelling out the consequences. Top tip: Touch the stakeholders’ world at every key touchpoint.
  4. Avoid the tyranny of metrics – Many insights leaders expressed a resistance to ROI measures. “With ROI there are those companies where it feels like you are walking around with an ROI number stamped on your forehead.” Many feared this was another way they would be seen as a cost center. According to the GRBN ROI report, concrete metrics are necessary but not sufficient: provide stakeholders with evidence-based insight success stories as well, as successful case studies are powerful. Top tip: Use impactful storytelling techniques that focus on art and science.
  5. Be pragmatic and sensitive to the culture – No organization has found the ultimate solution; be sensitive to your world, whether it is public vs. private, central control vs. local autonomy, or a culture of abundance vs. scarcity. Top tip: Apply the connections model of change, not the alternatives model, connecting recommendations to the best of what people are doing now rather than just suggesting alternatives to current practices.
  6. Make sure the insight team stays relevant – We need to explain how we are upgrading the customer insight skillset, transforming from data analyst to “wide-lens sensemaker”, from risk reduction warrior to future proofer, from presenter to storyteller and influencer. “We are well placed to embrace AI, as we understand consumer behavior better than most, and we are good at asking the why questions. We need to better explain the new insight.” Top tip: To make sure the insight team stays relevant, focus on being T-shaped, marrying the traditional with a specialty.
  7. Cultivate high performance insight habits – As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act but a habit.” Researchers are business translators, translating a business question to research objectives to research questions to research outputs back to business impact. Top tip: Understand what makes people tick, answering the why question.

David concluded by saying, “We need to acquire the story tools from art and apply them to our business. We need to win the emotional argument as well as the rational argument. Success looks like providing an interpretive understanding across questions-based research and analytics-generated data.”

(By the way, though not a subject of his talk, David is the author of a must read book, The Art and Science of Interpreting Market Research Evidence: Telling True and Powerful Stories from Market Research Data.)

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.