Market research projects can succeed when we have internal leadership support and set the right expectations with stakeholders. In this article, I discuss some skills needed in research to get the help you need and keep it.
This article on skills needed to get leadership support for market research includes:
- How to move fast
- Making decisions
- The importance of internal marketing
- Telling better stories
- Acing the elevator update
- Continuing education for researchers
The need for speed
One of the internal expectations often is that market research happens fast! And, indeed, it can happen much quicker than years ago.
- Send out video surveys to your customers.
- Get responses in moments.
“That doesn’t mean insight is slow,” she said. “Insight is something you come to that shines the light on something that not everyone knows.”
Also, keep in mind that getting feedback isn’t that difficult — at its core — as long as you are willing to ask the right people the right questions.
“Insight professionals just love learning,” Elisabeth said. “The key is to learn something new and not just keep repeating things.”
Elisabeth’s award-winning “Outside In” video surveys fall into that category. The company learns how customer rituals and behaviors change on an ongoing basis. It then shares that information internally.
“One of the things that have worked for us with this program is that it’s light touch and easy,” she said. And it’s ongoing, which can help with speed.
In the past, consumer insight projects were more intensive, she said:
- Everyone has to go out into the field.
- Then a day of work.
- A debrief.
“It’s this whole thing, and I don’t say that to mean it doesn’t have value. It does have value, but it’s resource-intensive in terms of people’s time, and it can be expensive.”
Elisabeth’s video feedback project asks customers questions through the Voxpopme video surveys platform, which summarizes the responses in short videos presented to stakeholders.
“And they come out once a week or once every two weeks,” she said. “We are asking for a little time to give you a lot.”
The need for the internal marketing of our research
Using the research skills learned throughout our careers helps us find good insights. But, it also matters how teams “market” the implementation of those skills to leaders and other stakeholders in the company. You can only get credit when others know about it.
- Explain the process
- Share the latest trends and how those impact the business
- Highlight how we learned something new through collaboration, use of new tech or more efficient strategies.
I wanted to call this out here because it can be easy to forget about marketing ourselves and our teams internally. “The work should stand on its own.” And good work can stand on its own, but people are busy so internal marketing matters.
“A big part of it is explaining what you found,” said Thomas Ware, senior market researcher at Liberty Mutual Insurance on “Reel Talk.” If it’s not easy to follow or easy to understand it won’t make much of a difference.”
Skills needed in research: Tell better stories
Stakeholders and leadership often are stretched to the max with meetings, PowerPoints, and the like. The ability to send them short videos makes your points quickly. Elisabeth said these tidbits of ongoing, shared information helps stakeholders and leaders make decisions on a daily basis.
“It’s in those smaller everyday decisions — those gut decisions,” Elisabeth said. “There are so many decisions that we make every day. As a seasoned marketer, you can make those decisions and often be right, but what is informing your decision is your experience in the market.”
Leaders — and, really, many people — often make decisions based on their own experiences, even when they aren’t exactly like their target customer. That can create problems, and hearing directly from customers through video can influence decisions beyond personal preference.
“That’s so true,” added Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.” “When I have an opinion about something based on my own experience, I say ‘I’m a sample of one, but this is how I feel about this.’ ”
“There’s this thing in research where people sometimes say, ‘Well, that’s an outlier,’ “Elisabeth said. “And they dismiss it. If it doesn’t connect with what I already know, then I’m going to dismiss it. And yes, sometimes you should, of course. But that’s the interesting part to dig into.”
Acing the elevator update
There are random times when stakeholders or executives ask for unplanned updates. That can be at a chance meeting in the hallway or elevator or a chat over Slack for distributed teams. Brian Monschein, vice president of research at Voxpopme, said it often starts with a seemingly simple question: “How is that project going?”
“You have a very limited amount of time to take a project that could have been weeks of setup, research, analysis, and summarize that down into roughly 30 seconds,” Brian said. “It’s the art of storytelling.”
Think of it this way: You could do all this great work to understand customers better, but if others internally don’t understand that story, it’s hard – if not impossible – to make an impact.
He offers these tips to be able to give straightforward and quick updates.
“Think of it as a story with a beginning, middle, and end,” Brian said.
- Beginning: Touch on why the project exists and what its purpose is.
- Middle: Details of the project so far and the keep findings to date.
- End: Talk about why this matters.
The end is likely the most important information your audience will want to hear so make sure to get to it quickly and then share the best available information.
Keep in mind that you cannot include every little detail. There’s just not enough time and sharing too much information can dilute the impact of the story shared.
“Keep them engaged and don’t bury the lead,” Brian said, adding that preparation matters. As you are working on the project, practice your elevator speech. What is the current status of the project and be ready to answer or share that at the right times?
Picking the right words to pull stakeholders in
The substance of the information and how we present it can be equally important. That can include the subject lines of emails sent to leaders.
“Results from survey 2021-21-55 are now available” might be technically correct but not very engaging.
“Top 10 improvements customers want NOW!” or “100 customers share their top features” might get more opens, for example.
Once a leader opens your communication, the insights need to be:
- easily digestible
- to the point
“What really sticks with people is when they hear a story,” Elisabeth said. “And when they are in somebody’s home, that sticks with people for years sometimes.
“That’s where I think video surveys can help bring your insights to light,” she said. “Make people informed, but also make it stick in their brain a little bit better.”
Making insights easier to remember also makes them easier for people to playback. That can be a huge advantage. Imagine leaders and other stakeholders being able to share the successes easily and, with that, internally market the research product.
Jennifer Pembroke Johnson, a global insights leader, on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show,” mentioned that hearing constructive feedback directly from consumers can be more powerful than hearing it from a coworker.
“Having people in your organization hear consumers – hear their voices, see their expressions, their emotions – that connectivity and empathy is huge,” Jennifer said.
Use language your leaders can relate to
Putting activities and results into the language that the target audience can resonate with are skills needed in research.
“One of the things that has held back a lot of researchers and insights professionals is their inability to frame their results and their impact in commercial terms,” said Mike Stevens, editor of insightplatforms.com on “Reel Talk.” “They need to be able to talk about driving growth in cash flow or churn reaction – speaking the language that commercial people will understand.”
For example, call “top of the funnel” activities “future cash flow.”
“Ninety-five percent of what’s in your B2B funnel is people that are not currently in the market to buy,” Mike said, but if they are in your target market they may still need your product down the road. “These are the types of frameworks and type of thinking that research needs to take to heart if they are going to be able to sell their stories better.”
Skills to tell that story are important for researchers and most importantly include building that narrative.
What insights are most helpful?
“Everything,” Elisabeth said. “I want to know everything about you, but I can’t, and I’m joking. It shouldn’t be about everything. And that’s part of what’s important about insight teams.”
What can be learned is what actually can make a difference in our decision-making and, ultimately, our business results, Elisabeth continued.
“And a lot of it is trying to figure out what will tell us something new,” she said. “What will be that new lens or that new understanding that will really unlock something.”
It’s not always easy to figure that out, but when it works, it’s another step to ongoing leadership support.
Remember that before even jumping into gathering data to determine what problem you are trying to address. What do you need to find out?
“What problem are we trying to solve?” Elisabeth said. “Is there an opportunity we are trying to take advantage of? What do we know about it already? What are the questions that, if we get answers to them, will make a difference?”
Ongoing education to get the new skills needed in research
Mike says there are plenty of tools out there today to continue learning. He recommends that researchers re-invest two to four hours per week in continuing education, which could include:
- Online courses
“It’s a reasonable benchmark to spend five to 10 percent of your time in a mix of structured and unstructured learning,” Mike said.
“For me, I have to block time on my calendar to make that work,” added Jenn. “Like three hours a week is dedicated to whether it’s education or even just scrolling through LinkedIn seeing what topics are trending. There was a time when that felt like not doing work, but it’s so important to know what is going on in the industry.”
Then use your newly-acquired skills or thought processes to drive even more results for your market research projects internally.
Knowing what technology to use
Ray Poynter, a 40-year veteran of the insights industry mentioned on “Reel Talk” the importance for brand researchers to pick the right MR tech stack. Using the right technology can help them tell better stories, do better analysis and be more efficient all around.
The skill needed for researchers that ties it all together is about understanding the business, the ways decisions are made and how the research ties into those.
“And then you have to bring something to the game,” he said. “You have to make sure that every time that problem comes up they say ‘oh, let’s call for Jenn.’ She’s really good at x.”
At the end of the day, skills needed in market research evolve. So does the thinking at times. And the tech. Learn the skills needed, unlearn them when it’s time to do that, and keep up to date on what works and what doesn’t. Easier said than done, I know. It’s a life-long learning process, for sure.