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Market research ROI: How to build a customer insights team that drives revenue

Kelvin Claveria
Kelvin Claveria (@kcclaveria)..

If you’re a customer insights leader, the best way to grow your team’s influence and get more resources is to show market research ROI. Building an indispensable team requires being able to link your team’s activities with meaningful business metrics.

The good news: most business leaders instinctively know customer insights teams deliver value.

The bad news: they’re not always clear how — a big issue when you’re trying to get more budget for new headcount or if you want to try new market research tools.

You can — and should — prioritize getting C-suite executives to understand the ROI of market research and customer insights. In a recent episode of Outliers, our weekly educational event series, I sat down with Brett Townsend, Head of North America Insights at Electrolux, to get his take on this topic. Check out the recording below or keep scrolling for some key takeaways.


Prioritize business impact

The first step to driving market research ROI is to instill the right mindset and attitude. Make it clear to your team members that everything they do should lead directly or indirectly to revenue.

Part of changing the mentality in your organization is to be wary of “interesting” market research projects that have no connection to sales.

“When I talk to different agencies or people about research, a lot of times it’s ‘find out what’s really interesting about what’s going on,’ and nobody knows what to do with it,” shared Brett. “It’s an interesting piece of information but it doesn’t help us.”

“I noticed there was a lot of that going on, where it was interesting but not helpful. Interesting but not impactful. Interesting but it doesn’t lead to the ‘so what’ and the ‘now what.’ It’s just basically a data point or a nice little thing to know.”

Market research "has to be interesting and impactful — interesting and lead to sales." 

Brett’s suggestion? Stop pursuing these projects at once as they can put your team’s future at risk. Don’t treat market research as an academic or social science exercise.

“It doesn’t mean what we do [in market research] can’t be interesting,” Brett clarified, “but it has to be interesting and impactful — interesting and lead to sales.”

Go from tactical research to strategic foresight

The type of research you do matters. If your team’s day-to-day activities are very tactical and reactive, you’re minimizing your impact.

"In many cases, the types of insight departments that are lacking impact are stuck very much in tactical research — very project-heavy, very product-focused, and very little projection," Brett explained.

A better approach, according to Brett, is to start looking for opportunities to deliver foresight. Find work that will help shape the future direction of the company.  

Get closer to other departments

It’s impossible to deliver market research ROI if your team is working in a silo. After all, your team’s work should be influencing product innovation, customer experience, marketing and other important decisions in the business.

Remember: you are not doing "interesting" research just for the sake of doing research. 

Being able to deliver actionable insights to other departments requires working with them collaboratively from the get-go. Building better relationships with other teams — and understanding their needs — is critical.

Also: communicate, communicate, communicate.

"The best consumer insights people nowadays are very persuasive, charismatic and great at building relationships," Brett added.

Maximizing market research ROI

Tracking the contribution of customer insights to revenue is imperative because it allows insight departments to get a seat at the table. It also makes it easier to get more budget to hire superstar market researchers and try new, innovative market research tools and insight platforms.

The good news is that understanding market research ROI does not require a magical formula or a fancy attribution tool. It’s not an exact science — and it doesn't have to be. It’s all about getting alignment with stakeholders on what really matters, re-imagining the role of market research in the organization, and intentionally working on forward-looking initiatives that will help steer the future of your organization.

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