Ca-ching: How does market research help a business?

Everything done in a professional setting should have a business reason. That holds for market research – whether it’s proactive, in a foresight capacity, or otherwise – as well. So we must know: How does market research help a business?

In this article, we discuss the answer to that question, including:

“It makes sense to take a step back and understand the market research industry as a whole and where it came from,” said Brett Townsend, SVP of Strategy at Quester. “When you look back at the 1930s and 40s when consumer insights and market research were really gaining its legs and started to develop, everybody that did market research was either an academic or a clinician. When doing research as a clinician, your goals differ from somebody trying to sell a product.”

So those methodologies do not work in a corporate environment. But market research helps a business when done well and with updated methods that apply to the business community. Applying research results to a company’s success means answering how it will help increase sales and decrease customer churn.

“At the end of the day, that’s what CEOs of companies care about,” Brett said.


Understanding the customer correctly

At the core, market research helps a company understand its customers better and in a meaningful way. That, in turn, helps the company do a better job at creating products, experiences, and services that are more relevant to people.

"Tying it all back to ROI, that's the golden nugget."

Getting ahead of disruption

Market research can help a company get ahead of disruption in its vertical. That can be through spotting new and in-motion consumer trends or foreseeing a change happening down the road.

“Literally every industry is being disrupted by someone or a group of companies,” Brett said. “It’s like the need for insights has never been greater.”

Read next: How to understand emerging brands (a.k.a. challenger brands)

Driving sales by understanding customer emotion

Market research can help sales teams connect better with prospects in the different parts of the funnel. From prospecting to continued nurturing to the finalization of the sale – understanding the buyer better helps in the different stages of their journey.

Using the proper research can also help sales teams understand what emotions drive decisions.

“Sometimes we just want to focus on the rationality of the data, but humans don’t act rationally,” Brett said. “It’s important that we understand the emotional drivers behind those decisions.”

Often, the emotional decision is a few levels down, and you must keep asking questions to unveil it.

“We have to really dig into what’s going on,” Brett said.

Read next: How to use the Jobs to be Done framework

Faster results by using the right technology

How does market research help a business? One way is by making faster decisions and understanding changing customers.

As Brett mentioned, extensive studies that would take a while were common decades ago. But today, businesses are expected to make decisions quickly, meaning the data needs to be readily available or teams need to gather it quickly.

“We don’t have months to make these decisions like our forefathers did,” Brett said. “And often, getting 100 percent accuracy is not what senior executives expect of us. Just 80 percent is great. That’s better than nothing.”

"We are looking at shorter timelines and bigger disruption. It has accelerated what we do."

Ongoing decision making

Embedding market research into an organization – for example, through proactive research and democratizing access – can help leaders make better-informed decisions.

“A lot of CEOs don’t feel like their organizations are insights-driven,” Brett said. “And when they don’t feel like their companies are doing that, what they revert to is gut decisions or listening to the inner circle and not really putting the consumer at the center of the conversation.”

Actionable insights that are shared on an ongoing basis can help the company make decisions based on what’s known and not just on gut.

“It’s really about proving that we are there to help the company and not just come up with things that are interesting,” Brett said. “The worst thing that can happen when talking to people is ‘and now what?’ A lot of time, when we are presenting, we are not telling them what to do, and that’s what these senior leaders are looking for.”

How does market research help a business? Through specific recommendations

Specific recommendations can be made when presenting research results. This can look like this:

  • Presentation of what was learned engagingly – including by highlighting the customer voice through video, for example.
  • Sharing of recommended next steps based on what was learned.

We’ve probably all heard the comments after presenting research: “But they didn’t take any of our recommendations?” Certainly, that does happen, but it also can happen that the recommendations weren’t crystal clear in the presentation. Other times, researchers may have neglected to really call out the recommendations and next steps.

That can be as simple as following this process in the presentation:

  • Here’s the what
  • Then the so what
  • Followed by the now what

“And then at the end, it’s ‘and then do this, this and this,” Brett said. “A lot of times the reason why senior leaders aren’t taking our recommendations is because we aren’t actually recommending anything. We are just presenting facts or data.”

But when specific recommendations are made based on market research, that can give a company a competitive advantage.

Tell a great story with the findings and then recommend the next steps. But that doesn’t mean it should always be long.

“We want poets, not novelists,” said Jenn Mancusi, CRO at conversational insights leader Voxpopme.

Insights strategist Greg Ambrose said that executives want the details quickly, concisely, and in an engaging way.

Read next: Storytelling in market research gets the Voice of the Customer to the table

Being a partner

That’s why it’s also crucial that insights teams are strategic partners to the business. They should ask questions, collaborate and work with stakeholders to get the most out of the research.

“You have to know your internal audience, and that’s why asking questions up front is so important,” Brett said. “And not just being order takers. I love it when people come to me in the various roles I’ve had and say, ‘Hey Brett, we need to do focus groups.'”

But running a focus group might not be the best strategy for every project. That’s why the insights and market research teams need to be partners and collaborate with others.

"Before we talk about how we are going to talk to the consumer, let's talk about what your question is." - Brett Townsend of Quester

“Let’s talk about what success looks like for this,” Brett added. “And every project I’ve done has had a different answer. Other than ‘How do we sell more stuff?’ Everything has had a slightly different angle to it. Yes, everything we do should lead to sales, but how we go about that varies from project to project.”

Read next: How to write research questions

Final thoughts

How do you know market research is working for your business? When actionable insights are presented in a meeting, there are a lot of nodding heads, Brett said. That’s a start: Others in the company see the value the insights can bring to future innovation and the customer understanding makes a difference.

“That’s a great sign – when there’s a lot of silence and a lot of head nodding,” Brett said. “And then, on the other end, what’s being recommended, gets implemented. Is it happening? And do they keep coming back to us as advocates of the consumer to make sure they are doing it the right way?”

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