How to Overcome Key Stakeholder Challenges in Market Research
Embedding market research within the business is not as easy as it sounds. Asking customers their opinion and putting a summary together of what they say is not enough for the feedback to be noticed. Engaging customers and collecting their feedback is one thing, but then distributing, communicating and integrating the findings across organisational levels is another. From the researcher’s point of view, doing all that hard work for the report to being put on a shelf to collect dust is frustrating; from the stakeholder point of view, spending the money on the research you can’t use is not exactly value.
The use of market research is driven by creating sustainable competitive advantage; regardless of whether the competitive strategy is to enter new markets, attract new customer segments, introduce new products to existing customers or improve the experience with the current product, the understanding of the customers is highly valuable. It is, therefore, no surprise that popularity of carrying out market research is on the rise; more creative, faster, more detailed techniques are used to deliver the insight a business is looking for.
So what makes it so difficult for the researchers to ‘share’ the findings with a business?
1. Details vs. Specifics
Descriptive findings and detailed reports will be appreciated by a fellow researcher who will value the descriptions and explanations of customer behaviour and be interested in finding out the how and the why. This is, however, not necessarily something the marketing director, for example, will want to indulge in. Their focus is application of findings in the marketing mix: product, price, place, promotion. They don’t necessarily need to know the detail of the research, but they do need to know the specifics that come out of it - there is a difference.
The need for a little detail and a lot of specifics increases the higher up in the organisational ladder the report is meant to reach, so as unfair as it sounds, to get better use and integration of research within the business, boiling it down seems to be the best way forward – reducing the number of quotes, bullet points, descriptions, even slides and delivering ‘to-the-point’ short messages, which are easy to digest and understand is something to consider.
These days, there are so many exciting and engaging reporting tools available, that the report doesn’t need to be a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation anymore. Experimenting with infographics, Prezi presentations or video formats can spark more interest from the business, especially if the end user is a stakeholder with limited time on their hands. In the end, those high up in the organisation will not sift through heaps of data to find the insight they are looking for – when they have to do that it is a sign that all the hard work in running the market research is going to waste.
At the end of the day, a stakeholder will appreciate one useful thing more than a lot of interesting things.
2. Business Culture
A company’s communication style mirrors the business culture within the organisation. The way a company shares information internally has an impact on how well market research findings are distributed across organisational levels. In businesses where communication between departments, teams or management levels is not efficient, it will be difficult to keep everyone up to date with the latest findings from market research studies.
Even a company aspiring to be the most customer-oriented organisation will find it challenging embedding a customer focus in all aspects of their business if their internal communication are not effective. The worst case scenario would be that the insight team are the only ones who have the knowledge about what customers are saying.
The most difficult part of this is that a researcher (especially from an independent research agency) has little influence over the dynamics within the business. It is the business itself, its management, different departments and individual teams that play a vital role in maintaining and continuously developing a customer-focused culture and encouraging interest in application of any market research findings sent their way. A gentle reminder of this at debriefs, in reports and communications with stakeholders may well work as a catalyst for the business to engage with research.
3. Researcher & Manager Differences
Finding a common language between a researcher and a stakeholder seems an obvious tactic for more effective use of the research within the business. There is no better way to embed the research than by stakeholders attending a debrief, remembering the findings and spreading the word. General office discussions, chats in lunch queues or during short meeting breaks is how the news gets round, so making the research findings as easy to understand as possible makes sense.
A mismatch between what the researcher is saying and what the stakeholder wants to hear happen all the time. Whilst a researcher says “64% customers have propensity to buy this product”, the stakeholder is trying to find out “What the expected revenue or sales forecast is.” It’s natural in a way. The researcher spends a lot of time going through the customer feedback, analysing figures, transcripts, etc., so using research terms to describe what the customer is saying is reasonable. On the other hand stakeholders go from one business meeting to another where business terms fly around the room continuously.
Finding common ground and applying a business focus to research findings helps bring everyone together. Understanding the end user of the research, their ‘business talk’ and using it appropriately in the findings is a great way of encouraging stakeholders to immerse themselves in the research. The saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do” comes to mind.
Business focus has a big impact, especially if it’s been applied in the design of the research, moderation and analysis as well as in the report.
This list of challenges is not finite. There are plenty more! For examples of how to tackle these, visit our tools page and find out how we use creative resources to engage stakeholders. Or, get in touch with one of our experts to hear about how we maintain business focus in market research.
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.