What to Do When No One Wants Your Research Data

Annette Smith

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Sophie Grieve-Williams

    In the midst of a global pandemic, it can feel like we are drowning in a vast sea of numbers. Every day, reading or watching the news requires what feels like A-Level maths to keep up with R rates, probability, and percentage increases and decreases. Add on to that curve balls from social media shares and it’s an awful lot to process. This can be literally a matter of life or death as we’ve seen from a scientific paper (Roozenbeek et al, 2020) published this week that linked higher levels of mathematical literacy and trust in scientists - and therefore their research data - with likelihood of being willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when a vaccine is available.

    In some respects, being a senior business leader or other marketing professional can feel like that all the time. There are so many competing metrics to track in any one business and market at the best of times (never mind throwing the current levels of market unpredictability and volatility into the mix) that the cognitive burden of processing yet more data becomes unbearable.

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    With the amount of data stakeholders see on a daily basis, it can feel like they're drowning in a vast sea of numbers - how do we engage them in yet more data and insights?

    This is all a bit heavy and impersonal though, isn’t it? For anyone else sick of big words (and big data) at the moment, let’s take the example of Ruby, Pran and Donna. Ruby is in the Customer Insight team at FC Enterprises, Pran is Chief Marketing Officer and Donna is Sales Director.

    The Data Push

    At the start of each calendar year, the research team at FC Enterprises conduct a customer satisfaction survey plus bring together data from focus groups, point of sale feedback and market data.

    Although for most of FC Enterprises, the fourth quarter of the year is where all the action is, for the Customer Insight team, the start of the year is their moment to shine; where they need to bring together data from many sources to summarise the success - or otherwise - of the year’s big campaign, and to inform plans for the year ahead. Ruby has been working flat out all through late Q3 and Q4, and is looking forward to presenting their findings to the board with a mixture of trepidation and excitement.

    However, by February, Pran, Donna and the other 6 members of the senior team are feeling somewhat fatigued from the big seasonal push. Of course, their planning cycle factors in years ahead, but this Christmas has been a tricky one with extra concerns around hygiene, social distancing and panic ordering. At least flight paths have been clearer for the Logistics team.

    Pinning dates down for a debrief has been difficult and the increase in home working across the business (despite the low number of cases in the area) hasn’t helped. Weeks’ worth of findings are sat ready to go and Ruby knows there are some really interesting insights ready for the senior team - if only they would take the time to get their heads around the data, in the form of a pack of PowerPoint slides. But no one is stirring to get a debrief set up to investigate the data or insights further.

    Ways to Make Insight Unmissable

    So, what can Ruby do to help improve the insights the team is generating and engage Pran, Donna and the rest of the stakeholders?

    Engage Stakeholders Early

    Before next year’s campaign, they would be advised to meet early with stakeholders to discuss objectives, agree what metrics would be most useful to the SMT and generally engage them early on in the process and throughout; Chris Martin argues that stakeholder engagement should “interwoven throughout the entire lifecycle of a project”, rather than just left to the end. This means that members of the SMT will not only have buy in, they’ll also be sure that the research will be looking at the key areas of focus for their briefs. It also could be a good opportunity to try out some agile research methods.

    Use the Right Tools

    Make the presentation of the data more interactive so that the other stakeholders can interrogate the data to answer areas of interest to their teams (play is considered to be very important at FC Enterprises!). Our NumbersMR tool, for example, would allow Ruby to create interactive analysis sets which she can then share with Pran, Donna and the team, who can then interact with the tables and charts and view crosstabs of these against key business metrics. Similarly, desktop-based tools such as Tableau can assist with this sort of visualisation.

    Get Up Close and Personal

    Being able to get to know the customers behind the data has a massive impact on stakeholder engagement. Rather than a single data point, having a customer describe their wants and needs and how they use a product or service is massively engaging for senior teams. FlexMR are currently working on VideoMR, a tool to help collate, curate and share videos from focus groups, survey responses and more within the InsightHub platform. Other tools such as VoxPopMe and Plotto would also help Ruby do this in a platform agnostic fashion.

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    By making sure your data is unmissable, you'll cut through the noise and ensure your insights are noticed and actioned in quick succession - read this blog to see how to make your data unmissable:

    Making Data Count

    So, by making sure that research is driven by stakeholder priorities by involving them early on in the process, by making data visually engaging and by making it personal through customer stories, you can make sure your stakeholders love your research and your insights get put to good use throughout your organisation. That way, you can make sure all of your stakeholders love you (or you data), and before long you’ll be a guiding light in the organisation through a fog of data and glowing with pride.

    Gulf in Client Agenct Relationships

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