Influencing C-Suite Decisions with Actionable Data

Emily James

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Lucy Bridges

    Isn’t influencing decision-making processes the goal of market research? Or at least, isn’t influencing decisions with actionable data what our goal has become through the evolution of our industry?

    We’ve come a long way with our aims, tools, techniques, and skills, from being a simple data generation and discovery industry to a fully-fledged empowerment industry, capable of building strong bonds between businesses and consumers through insight. One of the most important aspects of this, is to create actionable insights and data that are capable of influencing all decisions both large and small within the c-suite.

    What is ‘Actionable Data’?

    Depending on how you think about it, all data can be actionable data – but only in the sense that you can technically put all data to use regardless of their quality, relevance, and accuracy.

    However, truly actionable data in the sense all insight professionals count is data that is:

    • High in quality
    • Relevant to the decisions it’s applied to
    • Accurately represents true consumer opinion and experiences

    There are a number of ways to generate this actionable data, some that we’ve already talked about like the impact of technology on data generation methods and tools, and blending data formats for richer, deeper insights, but there are others that I would like to take the time to mention here.

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    Truly actionable data that has the power to transform brands and strategies,  is high-quality, relevant, and accurate - it has that 'sit-up and listen' quality that revolutionises stakeholder engagement.

    Let’s concentrate on each factor individually: relevance, accuracy, and quality. You might think that relevance and accuracy come hand in hand, but data can accurately represent consumer opinion on an irrelevant subject, and can focus on the relevant subject while also being inaccurate. The two are mutually exclusive factors that, when combined produces some of the most powerful data in existence.

    Relevance, once obtained, is time-sensitive, and so as time goes on the data can lose it’s relevance. That’s one reason why insight professionals are focussed on getting the right data to the right people at the right time. It will only be directly relevant to those who commission the data, and why we are continuously tasked to find ever-faster ways of producing this data. But this has led to a very pertinent question that we all still wrestle with today: how do we generate quick data without sacrificing on quality and accuracy?

    There are a number of ways to get accurate data, for example: tailoring the research experience to the needs of the client (making sure we reach the right respondents, using the methodologies best able to get the data needed (mixed methodology approaches combining quantitative and qualitative are usually the ones that help us generate rich data with deeper insight), implementing engagement strategies for both stakeholders and clients, etc. and implementing mixed-methodological strategies (so we have a chance to dig deeper in our research through both quantitative and qualitative methods to provide more detail).

    This relevance and accuracy are partly what make up high-quality data, with other factors coming into play such as richness, detail, and contextual intelligence. It is only through this actionable data, that c-suite decision-making will be successful, so how do we influence c-suite decisions with this data?

    Influencing C-Suite Decisions

    The most basic result of influencing c-suite decisions with actionable data, is that the decisions they make are better quality. That alone is a good reason that a lot of stakeholders will pay attention to, but it’s not enough to help them engage with the actionable data we provide.

    The next level that would attract their attention and increase their engagement would be that the decisions have a resounding successful impact on the business as a whole. And after that, showcasing the data-informed decisions already made as shining examples of what can be done when you have the right data at the right time will add to their enthusiasm and help them engage even more, and allow their decisions to be influenced by actionable data.

    With each successful example, we move closer to wiping out the negative impact of ‘quick’ gut-feeling decisions that rely on a combination of chance and previous experience. Even if some of those decisions work out, the chance of success is at best fifty-fifty, and most of those decisions result in light success in a short-term capacity, leaving the long-term future undecided.

    There are three ways that actionable data can help influence c-suite decisions:

    Through Reports

    Reports have been a staple of the research experience for decades, but they’re not as engaging as they once were. We’ve already discussed a couple of ways that we can make it easier for stakeholders to engage with actionable data:

    Visual storytelling is a brilliant tool for communicating valuable insights, and can be used to grab the attention of stakeholders, engaging them from the very start of the report. This can be used in video reports, infographic insight reports, and written reports through images other than graphs, tables, and charts.

    We’ve created a simple impactful reporting template to help you create these reports, with a little more information on how to use storytelling, psychological tricks, and imagery and art to boost the interactivity and overall engagement in your actionable data.

    Through Research

    This involves actively encouraging stakeholders to get involved in the generation of the actionable data they will be using, so they understand the work, the context, and the value of the data and helps them to trust it more. If they experience the research process, they can guide it based on their experience with the respondents, the new insights that come to light, and the situation as it changes, allowing them to actively have a hand in creating truly actionable data that they will use in their own decision-making processes.

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    There are a number of ways that insight professionals can help actionable data influence c-suite decisions, and help them make better informed decisions that benefit the business as a result.

    Through Repetition

    Repetition can be a hindrance when overplayed, but if it’s employed tastefully then it can actually help us through memory recall. As long as the actionable data is relevant, as can use it again in similar scenarios, similar situations, and achieve similar successful outcomes.

    Repetition is a technique used a lot by journalists, politicians, and advertisers off the back of psychological studies where repeating words and phrases can embed them in our memory. This technique can be applied to actionable data and insights in reports to apply in the moment, but also as a technique to recall these insights to apply in later relevant scenarios.

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