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What market researchers can learn from marketers

Andrew Reid
Andrew Reid is the founder and CEO..

Don’t forget that market research is not a charitable donation but a business investment.

If you’ve talked to anybody in marketing recently, you’ll know how central customer experience is. Innovative companies have sophisticated Customer Experience Management (CEM) systems to track just about every customer interaction—allowing them to measure fast-changing attitudes and opinions on a weekly or even daily basis, and not wait for a monthly report.

It’s a booming market for CEM: the global industry was expected to grow from $6.5 Billion in 2019 to almost $24 Billion by 2027, according to a February 2020 report from Grandview Research. And the thirst for CEM providers has only grown: Qualtrics—which markets a cloud-based CEM platform—debuted on the NASDAQ in late January at $30 a share, quickly rising to $55 a share. Its market cap, as of early February, was over $27 Billion.

CMOs have made experience management core to what they do, but not all corners of the marketing world have adapted so quickly. As the founder of two insight platforms and a cheerleader for market research, I’d argue that our field is still largely stuck in the past—leaning on binders full of data and slide-decks full of charts to make our case. In doing so, we overlook the very human role researchers can play in a brand’s success.

Here are five things market researchers can learn from marketers to up our game and provide a better overall brand experience:

Bring your customer into the boardroom

The best marketers are, at their core, good storytellers—able to combine the necessary quantitative data with compelling visuals, including video.

Uploaded_video (3)I like to share the story about a presentation we did for a studio in Burbank a few years back, and watching the roomful of distracted executives, heads down and fiddling with their phones. As soon as our consumer videos started playing, however, the phones went away and everybody’s eyes became glued to the big screen.

Executives love to see real people interacting with their brand. So when you’re presenting top-line data, make sure to show videos that bring your research to life. Your client may not open that slide deck again, but they’ll never forget seeing the face of their customer, fan or viewer.

Get close to the action—and make market research an ongoing process

Many of the world’s biggest companies know the value of an integrated, iterative approach to gathering customer insights. Ford Motor Co. is a good example. It formed its Global Data Insights and Analytics (GDIA) unit in 2015 to drive data-based decision-making across the company, embedding GDIA members with each product team.

The best marketers are, at their core, good storytellers.

Getting close to the action is important—and so is building capacity for what Forrester calls continuous discovery. Research used to be like the 1970s space missions: you build a very expensive survey, send it into orbit, and hope something useful comes back to earth. Today, the rockets we need are smaller—and can both take off and land, like SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Give clients shareable, easy-to-digest insights

Many organizations have access to a bounty of information, including behavioral, transactional and social-listening data. Market researchers need to find ways to make those insights visually compelling and easy to consume. 

If I’m doing market research for United Airlines, for example, there is a lot of data that the marketing team might need. But there’s also data that should be shared with the baggage handler (experience at the baggage carousel) or the flight attendant (feedback on a new inflight menu).

If you’re going to make an investment in market research, don’t leave insights gathering dust on a bookshelf. Make sure it gets out to everyone, in bite-sized chunks.

Humanize your insights—and yourself.

If you want to get genuine, authentic responses, you need to be willing to share a bit about yourself.

One of our clients, who runs community for a large beverage company, says she films videos of herself, walking her dog, as a way of introducing each research project: “Hey, just out for a walk and thought I’d reach out to you guys with some questions today.”

Her engagement is huge, she says, because it’s no longer an automated, “Respondent 1741-B, please answer the following questions”; she’s not treating participants as a number or data point.

Tie market research to ROI

Finally, don’t forget that market research is not a charitable donation but a business investment.

Clients deserve to understand: (a) How is this going to make them money? or (b) How is this going to save them money? That’s why, going into discovery calls, we always ask clients: What is your ROI? How do you get your bonus? What matters to you?

Sometimes the answer is obvious, but other times it’s not. By asking a lot of pointed questions, we can better understand a client’s core metrics and integrate that into our work—delivering a little more purpose, and potentially more value, from the data we collect.

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