Winning over leadership teams is critical to a successful research experience, as well as the continued success of the insights industry itself. Without stakeholders to continue requesting research and then acting on the insights we provide for them, the industry simply would not be able to continue on in the practical manner it has done so far.
Innovation is taking over many research aspects, including the ways insight teams communicate with, engage, and include stakeholders in the research experience. Still, even now leadership teams have a reputation for being tough when it comes to market research and insight teams, which has led to noticeable friction in the progress of insight teams within stakeholder organisations.
So how can researchers win over leadership teams to make sure insights are acted on and insight teams can function seamlessly in external industries?
Engaging Leadership Teams in Communication
Open, consistent and interesting communication is the key to increased engagement from stakeholder leadership teams, as Aga Wilson, Insight Manager at Paragon Bank, can attest. Aga holds a great deal of experience in this area and is happy to share some of her thoughts on the matter. Firstly, Aga explains that:
“Stakeholder communication can be a make or break for market researchers. Effective engagement with senior leaders is what sets apart insight that is ‘interesting’ and ‘impactful’, no one wants to deliver an outstanding piece of research that is destined only for the filing cabinet. [Insight teams must aspire to] build credibility with senior leaders, deliver the answers (right information, at the right time, in the right format), and demonstrate added value to ensure insight you land inspires stakeholders to act.”
|"Stakeholder communication can be a make or break for market researchers... effective engagement is what sets apart interesting research from impactful insights." - Aga Wilson, Paragon Bank.|
With innovation ruling a variety of research communications with stakeholders, Aga shares the tactics and techniques she recommends for connecting with and engaging leadership teams, saying quite rightly that “leadership teams’ engagement should be a core part of every research project and an overall insight strategy.”
Aga’s first recommendation is to “map your stakeholders, discover stakeholder influence and advocacy, identify key sponsors and insight champions.” This will help insight teams make better decisions regarding who is able to advocate on behalf of the insight team in conversations that researchers might not be present for, but also make the best use of the insights generated in strategic decisions.
Secondly, and “most importantly, make sure to understand different communication styles, needs and priorities and adapt your own communication style accordingly.” Each stakeholder will have different preferences when it comes to communication styles and how often they like to be communicated with about research projects and potential insights. It’s the insight team’s job to make sure they’re using this information to their advantage and communicating with stakeholders in an impactful way that enhances the chances of insights being used at the very least.
So, what can researchers do to adapt their communication to the needs of business leaders? Aga best explains how she manages to categorise and tailor communication styles to each segment of stakeholder in Paragon Bank:
“Once you considered your audience from the assertiveness (ask or tell) and responsiveness (emotive or controlled) point of view and established different communication styles your stakeholders have, you can start adapting the way you communicate with them.
Think about the most effective communication channel and format for your audience. Whereas your Relater-type would appreciate a phone call or a face-to-face meeting and an initial icebreaker general chat will help to initiate the discussion, your Driver-type will respond better to a punchy email and sticking to business.
Your behaviour, voice and path to reaching a decision also matter greatly. Your Expresser-type will certainly be up for an energetic, personable, stimulating input, but this can easily overwhelm your Analyser-type. In which case, win them over with a strong evidence-driven case prepared in advance, giving them a chance to digest and come up with conclusions in their own time.”
Designing Immersive Research Experiences
Beyond communication, insight teams can win over leadership teams with immersive research experiences. Collaboration is an up and coming form of research experience, with more stakeholders contributing, observing, altering, and designing their own research tasks than ever before.
Immersive research experiences start at the very beginning when research has been requested. Stakeholders have an integral knowledge of the issue at hand, the situation that created it, as well as the strategic business objectives the research can also be used to inform to issue of great progress. With stakeholder knowledge and collaboration, insight teams are able to design the best research experience to help produce the right insights at the end.
Throughout the data collection stage, stakeholders can either observe or take a more active role in the collaborative sense. Observing will still count towards an immersive experience, as they can observe focus groups in real-time and gain an essential first-hand understanding of the context that grounds the insights generated from the focus group. These conversations hold a lot of unspoken insights that stakeholders can interpret for themselves and even act on while the focus group is happening.
If stakeholders have the experience and/or the knowledge, then insight teams can hand the reigns over to them for a second to conduct a survey or other simple research task while the researcher supervises or analyses other previously collected data. This more hands-on collaborative role requires a little more trust in the stakeholders present but can be done with sufficient prior education and understanding of market research tactics.
|Winning over stakeholders ensures they come back for more market research in the future, and perpetuates positive transformational change across industries.|
There aren’t many collaborative opportunities in the analysis stage as it requires technical skills stakeholders typically don’t possess. But once the insights have been generated and presented, the stakeholders then possess the potential to enact true transformative change within their organisation, armed with the right answers when interpreted correctly. But the role of insight teams doesn’t end when the report is handed over - there are still collaborative opportunities available once the insights are delivered.
Insight teams can keep up communication channels and opportunities, to make sure the stakeholders truly understand the task that lays before them and how to uncover more insights when combing through more data. From insight forums and inventories to simple newsletters, emails, and even instant messaging, insight teams can still communicate regularly with leadership teams to win them over once that particular research experience has come to a close - ensuring that stakeholders come back for more in the future and winning them over once and for all.