The 5 Key Stakeholders in Any Long-Term Research Project
Every market research project is different. By extension, each project requires the attention of different stakeholders within an organisation. This could make any project seem rather overwhelming from the researcher’s point of view. Who should the results be shared with? Who should be asked for input at the design stage?
When it comes to deciding which stakeholders should be involved, my personal way of approaching the question is: who makes the decisions about how your product or service is priced, distributed and sold? Following this thinking, there are at least 5 key stakeholders who should be involved in any major research project:
R&D teams develop the product. These are the people who implement and decide upon the design, functionality and overall use of the product. They specify everything there is about a product (well, almost!). This is also the team who can introduce any level of customisation to the product to increase its appeal to consumers.
As creative as this team can be, their main goal is to design the product that customers will buy. This can mean research & development professionals are, through no fault of their own, isolated from customer feedback. This is turn can lead to poor understanding of customer needs and expectations and creates inefficiency.
Because of this, any project focused around a product should be of interest to the R&D Director. Whether it’s understanding product use and adoption, which features are used and which are not, satisfaction with a product or how closely it meets customer expectations – these are all issues market researchers and R&D teams need to be in contact about. More so, the development team can use the creativity of customers to come up with further developments and improvement of the product.
No product is sold unless customers know about it. How the marketing team choose to run a communications campaign will determine the likely return on marketing spend and the degree to which it supports sales. Knowing what speaks to customers is a great advantage here.
Just like with any communication, the most important is for a message to be interpreted, or decoded, in the way it is intended. Are the brand values clear? Are the benefits of the products easy to understand? Are the slogans we used attracting enough attention? Is the product differentiated enough?
Any feedback on what is engaging, visit a store or a website will provide valuable information. Customer opinion on marketing materials can directly support the marketing team in their mission of creating or increasing product awareness both quickly and effectively.
The right price for a product is just as important as the product itself. If a price is too low it can negatively influence customer perception of product quality, reliability or performance. If the price is too high it might hinder uptake and will not generate the expected demand. Understanding customer response to price and the way they judge product value can provide a significant assistance with pricing decision.
But price is not everything and sales teams are also interested in performance of competitors - particularly how their products compare. Sharing insight about consumer purchasing behaviour and their opinion of competitors is a great way to engage with this stakeholder.
Any project focused on consumer purchasing decision making, their propensity to pay or likelihood to switch is something worth getting in touch with the sales team about.
Digital Team Director
With an increase in online purchasing behaviour, creating a successful website and digital presence is key. Creating the best and easiest possible user journey is crucial to facilitating product purchase.
It’s not only about the layout of the website, the colours and images. It’s also about the information provided, product descriptions, spec details, etc. Apart from that, there is also the purchasing journey itself: ordering, entering payment details, confirmation emails and delivery tracking. Feedback on these areas helps develop a website that meets expectations of customers and is, of course, fit for purpose.
Projects which focus on understanding how the website is used, how navigation is used to browse products and the overall website UX will spark an interest from the web development team. Add consumer behaviour across different devices and you will have their full attention.
Customer Services Director
No matter how good your product is and how well it’s been marketed, priced and sold, something can still go wrong in its journey from production to customer’s hands. And even if everything is working perfectly, customers may still get in touch to ask a simple question like ‘how do I use this?’ Excellent customer service is vital.
Interaction with customer services is very likely and covers wide range of topics and enquiry types. Knowledge on what customers expect in terms of enquiry handling, speed of resolution and availability of communication channels as well as staff professionalism and expertise will help maintain high level of customer support.
Here, any performance trackers, satisfaction studies, contact diaries, etc. will be useful. Any insight related to customer contact will be something the customer services director is looking for.
No matter what your project is about, there should be at least one of the people mentioned above that will be interested in your findings. Establish an open communication gateway with these teams and keep them up to date with what they need to know to help your business grow faster and in a more sustainable fashion.
Of course, these are just my thoughts on who should be involved in ongoing, company-wide research. I’d be interested to hear what your opinions are. Who do you involve in research projects? Share your thoughts with me below.
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Dr Crockford is a scientist and mathematical genius who has established herself well in the market research industry. She is responsible for the skills and work of our research teams, and strategically plans research processes around client needs to ensure we deliver the maximum possible value. You can follow Dr Crockford on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.