Return on research

Now that organisations continue tightening their belts, the question on the ROI of marketing becomes more and more important. Market research feels the same pressure: more, quicker and more effective. Measuring the research’s ROI is far from easy. And it’s far from realistic to have your market agency’s revenues or your market research department’s budget depend directly on the achieved results. What is possible, however, is expanding the application field of market research and therefore increasing its strategic importance. In this article I describe three ways to increase your market research’s return.

1. Choose more powerful methods

Good market research needs to be supported when making the right decisions: what product or service should be launched, how can the customer service be optimised, what media mix should one choose, etc. Many companies choose old and familiar methods to find answers to all these questions. Sometimes that is a good approach, given the consistency and possibility to compare. But all too often it is inspired by resistance to change. Which is a pity, given the wide range of new methods that allow you to go further, to understand more in-depth and therefore to reach a higher ROI of your research. For more than 3 years Heinz Netherlands has been facilitating most of its policy decisions for marketing, communication and innovation via a permanent and closed community of consumers. Via this ‘Consumer Consulting Board’ they reach scaled advantages, they can change gears quicker and they are building an insight aiming at the future.

2. Revive research in your organisation

Research is too often a dead trade. After a presentation, reports all too often end up in a closed locker or they are untraceable on some server. Companies can improve the ROI of their research by internally reviving the results. Via ‘gamification’ (using game techniques, thought patterns and appreciations to involve your audience and solve problems) you involve your collaborators and bring them closer to the consumer. By uniting several departments around the consumer, you also bring down internal barriers. That is how you can grow, as an organization, from an ‘inside out’ to an ‘outside in’ perspective. Unilever R&D influences the thinking, feeling and acting of 1,000 of its employees by immersing them for 3 weeks in the world of their target group. After this unique experience Unilever realised that R&D collaborators had a much better idea of how consumers make choices, that they started more conversations about certain products with friends and family members, and that they had more of an eye for new products when shopping.

3. Use research as a ‘conversation starter’

We rapidly tend to shield research from the outside world. It all has to remain top secret. Yet research offers enormous opportunities to relevantly put your brand, product or service in the spotlight. By sharing information with the outside world about the process, decisions or even results of a survey, relevant content can be created which is basically more conversation potential amongst customers and prospects. I quote the Heineken example and the way they co-created the ‘Club of the future’ with designers all over the world. Via a unique application (see: Heineken shared many of the insights with the broad public, which the brand’s image benefited from.

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