If you weren’t so busy, you might have time to reflect that this is a great time to be working in Consumer Insights. Customer centricity is more important than ever before, and the best way for companies to become customer centric is by generating actionable consumer insights, through a mixture of market research and data analysis – ideally led by the vision, experience and expertise of Consumer Insights professionals.

However, you know it doesn’t always work like this. Many Consumer Insights professionals are overwhelmed: working so hard to cope with a crazy volume of projects, meetings, supplier pitches, and PowerPoint marathons that they’re running to keep up, reacting to project briefs, rather than taking a leadership position. One way to break the cycle and lighten the load is to transfer the responsibility for market research project management to colleagues in other parts of the business.

The aim of this guide is to help you teach your colleagues in Marketing – Product, Brand and Communications people – to do Insights.  If you’re worried that this might be a terrible idea, the guide looks at how to mitigate the potential risks, before going on to explore the many benefits, and giving you practical guidance on how to make this happen. So, hear us out – it may be the best thing you ever did for your career, your colleagues and your company.

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong if I Teach Marketers Consumer Insights?

If you are like most Consumer Insights professionals, you will probably have one or two concerns: “What will happen to my job?” and “What if they mess it up?”

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

What Will Happen to My Job?

We get it. It is entirely reasonable to be concerned about your job. Because so many Insights roles are focused on managing projects, you may feel that if you give that aspect away, there’ll be no job left. But take a moment to remember why you got into Insights in the first place. Was it to manage endless projects? Or was it because you are interested in people, and in learning about what makes them tick? If you give away some of the project management workload, these other more rewarding parts of your job can start to flourish.

If your calendar looks anything like the first example, below, just imagine what it would do for your job satisfaction, career prospects, and work-life balance if you could transform it to look more like the second example.

Will They Mess Things Up?

Although your colleagues in marketing are no doubt charming, intelligent people, they probably don’t know much about market research. If you were to let them loose on DIY tools and enable them to create their own projects, not only might they make mistakes through lack of knowledge (skewed samples, biased questions, misinterpreted results), but there may be (unconscious) incentives for them to game the results to validate pet projects or existing opinions. Sometimes, when people are highly invested in a project, they just don’t want to find out anything negative.

Fortunately, tools available today are expert led, which means they’re dummy proof in regards to research knowledge and experience. Part of your role will be to choose and set up the tools so as to protect your marketers and enable them to do great research.

There are two ways that they could potentially mess things up – one is getting the inputs wrong and the other is interpreting the outputs incorrectly. Modern tools are built to answer research questions, and are delivered through templates, on platforms that can be made accessible to all. They can be set up so that the inputs the marketers have are limited, and also so that they deliver not just results, but diagnostics, which give unequivocal answers, instead of raw data that can be misunderstood, or misrepresented to fit an agenda.

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The Insight team needs to do the following three things before letting marketers loose on their toys

i)          Choose which tools to use: there is a wide selection available and it is the role of the Insights team to evaluate which works best for what tasks, and to select and standardize so that everyone uses the same tools for the same things. For example, if you use a certain product to do concept testing, then disable other products for that use.

ii)             Set up smart defaults for product categories, markets, audiences, and questions. Your marketers don’t need to know anything about ratings scales if you can set them up in advance. Pilot the defaults within the Insights team to be sure about what works in the market. Try the tools out first on live projects and evaluate them from the perspective of your marketing colleagues. Decide how much flexibility you want to give your marketing colleagues, for example, will they be able to add custom questions?

iii)           Train marketers to use the tools effectively. In reality, the platform should be fool proof if you only enable them to choose the audience of interest, the countries and the stimulus to test. In addition, choose tools that give clear outputs – such as comparing findings to benchmarks – and train marketers to understand what the outputs mean, if there are any limitations, and how to apply the findings.

What Are the Benefits?

You may already be raring to go, based on the idea that you can reduce your workload. But if you aren’t sold yet, here are some other benefits for you, your marketing colleagues, and your organization as a whole, which may convince you that this is the way to go.

Benefits for You

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·         Better use of your time: It’s not just about reducing your workload, it’s about making better use of everybody’s time. In multinational companies, marketers typically outnumber Insights folks by a ratio of six to one, so it’s a numbers game. If the insights team continues to service all the research briefs generated by the much larger marketing team, it’s clear there will be little time for anything else. But if the marketing team can be self-sufficient in appropriate areas, the Insights team will be free to do more of the higher value work that does need research expertise and can’t be done in marketing.

·         Overview of all testing: You’ll get to see the results of all the tests that are done within marketing, which means you can take a higher level holistic view. And if you set up standardized inputs, you’ll be able to compare results across all the projects that marketing does. So while your marketers are focused on individual outputs, you can conduct meta-analysis, bringing in data from other sources, to answer questions such as “How has our advertising improved year on year?” or “In ads for which product category does humor work best?” As you build up a body of insights, and combine research data with the market outcomes, your work will start to become predictive – and the more testing your marketers do, the finer-tuned your predictions will become.

·         Elevation of Consumer Insights: That higher value work will elevate the role of the insights team from project managers, to trusted business advisors. For example, based on your holistic view, you could put together a monthly newsletter that tells an insight based story. Then you get to be part of the conversation, even when you aren’t in the room.  

Benefits for Your Colleagues

·         Speed: By empowering the end users to run their own tests, they can get answers much more quickly. Not only will this expedite their processes, but also, they will be more likely to see the value of testing their ideas. If creative people have to stop in mid flow to go brief Insights, then wait a couple of weeks for results, you can see why they might be tempted to go with their gut instead.

·         Directed creativity: Putting insights at the heart of the creative process, and making it fast to test concepts or creative will raise the bar for marketers. No more wasting time on projects that are unlikely to succeed, or getting too invested in ideas that don’t have traction.

·         Less data, more answers: Nobody needs more data. Research in 2018 shows that 65 percent of companies worldwide actually have too much data, and can’t analyze or categorize all the customer data they store. But by using tools that add diagnostics and benchmarks to results, marketers get answers straight away, rather than having to interpret data – or wait for Insights to put a deck together.

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Benefits for Your Company

·         Better decision making: Because the insights are generated at the point at which they are used, the feedback becomes more valuable. Marketers are empowered and motivated to test their assumptions, and Insights can deliver a holistic view of the consumer, and predict the impact of product or communication initiatives, saving time and resource and increasing the success of marketers’ efforts.

·         Better ROI: With a test and learn culture embedded in the organization, decision makers are getting customer centric answers and the organization is getting a framework that focuses creativity on high growth areas – so investment in research will lead to better creativity, higher productivity and more sales.

·         More agile development: As the Consumer Insights team becomes a curator of high level consumer understanding, they will start to generate brand, category or country level predictions that will inform which types of price points, go-to-market strategies, product attributes or positioning statements are going to move products. This means the organization will benefit from being able to get to market faster, with the right ideas.

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Inspiring Change

Plenty has been written about organizational change, and in particular, about the “people” elements of change. It’s widely reported that 70 percent of change projects fail, in large part due to employee resistance. So don’t expect your marketing colleagues to embrace the change, however positive they might sound when you present it to them. You don’t want to launch your new regime like a rocket, only to watch it fade away like a damp squib. If you want to avoid marketers still saying “can’t you just do it for me?” six months after the launch, try these approaches.

·         Do some research: You’re a researcher, right? We’re always telling our stakeholders they need to understand their customers. But we aren’t always so good at taking our own advice. Spend some quality time with your marketing colleagues learning how they work and how they want to use insights. Look for gaps and opportunities and build what you learn into your platform.

·         Lead with the benefits: Sell it in. Don’t make it about the features of your shiny new platform, or about benefits for you or the organization. Make it about the benefits for them. As above, these are (in a nutshell) faster tests and better results.

·         Get the C-suite on board: One of the classic texts on change management, The Heart of Change, states that that for change to be successful, 75 percent of a company’s management needs to support the change. Create a vision of what a higher-level Insights team can bring to the organization and get the C-suite to help you implement your vision.

·         Insights, heal thyself: Before imposing a new regime on the Marketing team, make sure that the Insights team are bought in and confident about using platform-based self-serve tests. It may be that your marketers actually show less resistance, as they are used to using platforms in many other aspects of their work, such as social media analytics and programmatic advertising, whereas researchers are used to agencies doing everything.

·         Make it fun: How can you launch the new testing regime? A workshop? A roadshow? What will be most appealing and get the most traction in your organization. Then how can you make the platform fun to use? Are there ways you can gamify the process, such as offering prizes for the people who are using it the best? But beware of unintended consequences. For example, if you offer rewards for who did the most tests, you may end up with people testing unnecessarily.

·         Keep it going: New initiatives often start well, but can tail off quickly. In the early stages, look for the power users. Do some more research – find out what they are doing, and why they are so invested in the platform – then see how you can apply your learning to increase usage amongst other marketers.

So What’s Next?

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So, you’ve created a vision and got buy in. Here’s some FAQs that will help you take practical steps to get your marketers testing their ideas.

Q: What type of test are appropriate for marketers to do?

A: Simple and well defined tests versus complex statistical analyses or open-ended exploratory studies. You probably don’t want your marketers to be running focus groups or ethnographies, or doing segmentation studies. But these are the types of projects that you won’t want to give up, as they tap into your core role of getting a deep and detailed understanding consumers.

Q: Can marketers just launch projects without the Insights team becoming involved?

A: Yes, that’s the idea. If you have set up the guardrails effectively, there is no need for them to contact your team. And you will be notified via the platform when testing is taking place so you can monitor the outcome at your leisure.

Q: What about taking action based on the outcomes?

A: Again, yes, because you have set up the guardrails, and done the training, your colleagues should be all set to take action, with confidence.

Case Example

Company: Global Food producer

Marketing organization: Around 6,000 marketers worldwide.

Goal: To democratize the process of idea screening

What the Insights team did: Chose tools, decided on how to categorize the audience, and chose question structure and wording, then set these choices up as guardrails within the tool.

How they managed the change: The company put on marketing boot camps in ten countries over a period of six months, to socialize the new tools. They ran creative ideas session, then sent participants away to use the tools overnight, and reconvened the next day to come back with recommendations

The outcome: In short? More productivity and better insights. The organization was able to change ads iteratively, generate product ideas more strategically, and bring winning ideas to market faster than ever. This allowed for cost savings and more breaking revenue targets for digital ads and new products.

Key Takeaways

1.            If you want to thrive in a Consumer Insights role, it is time to let go of some of your project management work, by teaching your Marketing colleagues to do Insights

2.            This might be a little scary: Will you lose your job? Will they get it wrong?  But if you choose the right projects, and set up standardized platform-based tools, you should be able to enhance your role whilst protecting the marketers from doing any damage.

3.            There will be benefits for you – better work-life balance, and the ability to take a holistic view of Insights to create higher value work; for your colleagues – faster and better testing and guided creativity; and for your company – better, faster decisions, and improved ROI.

4.            A key success factor will be managing the human elements of the change by, for example, researching what your colleagues really need, creating a vision to get C-suite buy-in, leading with the benefits, making it fun and keeping the initiative going

5.            Once you have chosen the tools and set up the platform, your colleagues should be up and running, able to self-serve and take action, without you or your team in the room, leaving you free to work on only the projects that deliver higher value to your company.



Ryan Barry

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Ryan Barry

Ryan Barry is the Chief Revenue Officer at ZappiStore.

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