Having an informational foundation is beneficial, but rare
In school we are taught to start any project with a review of the existing literature. The goal being to learn as much about your topic as possible so that your paper, empirical research, meta-analysis or literature will advance the knowledge within your area of study.
Unfortunately, in my experience, this is one of the practices of academia that translates poorly into a business context. In a professional setting, time pressure, political agendas, siloed structures, and inefficient communication channels limit the amount of information we share and absorb before forging ahead with disparate strategic plans, roadmaps, corporate initiatives, and goals.
There are a few common reasons that initiatives eventually move forward without the desired and beneficial informational foundation that promises to improve focus, utility, and positively impact business performance.
Customer feedback is not available when the business needs it
Quarterly tracking work or ad hoc projects that arise out of a specific information need have gradually fallen out of favor due to the time required to receive, process, present and digest the information. When the need or pressure to move ahead is too great to wait, insights teams have had to adjust to a “good enough” approach and forge ahead.
Some organizations plan to incorporate the information at a later date and “course correct” if the data are in opposition with their predetermined conclusions. In practice, this rarely happens. Instead, we see research and insights teams being pressured to massage their interpretation of results to improve alignment with the existing agenda. If they are unwilling to oblige, there is a good chance that the validity of the research and subsequent conclusions will be called into question by the business. This is often a method to cast doubt on the conflicting information to bolster continued support to remain with the original agenda.
Lack of a direct connection between existing knowledge and business need/question
When organizations are well connected and there is a broad awareness of research and insights value, business units such as marketing, communications, IT, product, sales, retention, etc. will be in the practice of searching for existing customer input related to their current needs, questions or problems before creating action plans. The roadblock often encountered on this journey, however, is that the request for information is usually met with an unsatisfactory response like, “We haven’t looked at that specifically.”
Depending on the magnitude of the ask, timing and budget, the two best scenarios to procure the information at this point are:
- Develop and conduct an ad hoc study to specifically address the business need or
- Discuss what available knowledge is present that relates to the question and synthesize it to collaboratively make an informed decision on next steps
If there is no time, very limited budget, or lack of existing prior knowledge to address the business need at hand, a third alternative is to look to available data in the wild through a secondary analysis.
What is not recommended, but happens far too often, is that none of these options are activated and the business moves ahead based on uninformed hypotheses.
The business believes they know best how to move ahead – no consultation needed
While it is likely true that those closest to the business know it best, when teams act in siloed fashion, they limit their final product/service to the market. Creating a diverse input function brings valuable perspective from many areas throughout the organization. When we open the dialog and supplement it with existing knowledge, this opens the conversation to uncover similar complementary or oppositional efforts that are underway. Additionally, historical knowledge of what has been tried and the resulting outcomes can be discussed to plan next steps that build upon past efforts rather than unnecessarily repeating less fruitful work. In short, valuable lessons are learned and efforts expand when internal communications broaden.
A secondary function of corporate insights teams is to act as a hub connecting various teams within the organization. The keepers of the research and knowledge are usually very aware and happy to connect similar efforts. When business units choose to forge ahead without consulting others, they risk missing out on making valuable connections that are likely to save time, money and provide a better return on investment.
Avoiding messaging mishap in the nick of time
In working with a very conservative company, our team was tasked with providing the customer voice to inform development of a new product along with supporting advertising and messaging creation. While the stakeholders from each individual area within the organization understood and appreciated the importance of customer input into the product design, creative development and production went ahead at a clip slightly ahead of research reporting.
The fast track was directly related to an internal cultural shift within the marketing and communications team. A new VP had recently come onboard and changed advertising agencies to liven up the brand’s approach. Everyone in the creative team was supportive of this effort and great messaging was produced for testing. However, some of the messaging was a bit edgy by existing cultural standards. The eager team prematurely went into production with their favorite campaign slogan assured that it would be well received.
The opposite was concluded from general consumer input. The edgy ad was found to be offensive and off-putting by a majority within the brand’s footprint population. Thankfully, results were delivered and disseminated throughout the organization just in time to halt the “offensive” messaging from being wrapped onto several metro buses.
While the creative team and VP were not pleased with the decision to pull their edgy ad, the organization felt the need to stay true to their established brand image. Firmly believing the messaging was not in sync and armed with popular customer opinion to support the decision, this example illustrates shows the need to connect with customers and across your own organization to optimize success.
Big Village is here to help your organization stay better connected and informed. Whether it be through conducting new primary research, synthesizing existing knowledge to give your teams the foundation needed to move ahead or conducting a secondary analysis to get a pulse on the industry.
Our team of industry and customer experience experts begin each engagement by immersing themselves in your business. We review existing research literature and synthesize it for key themes; identifying existing knowledge gaps and recommending the most cost-effective, efficient approach to close those gaps and conducting the work needed to provide critical information relevant to the business question at hand.
In the case that a review of existing information is not enough or would be more comprehensive with additional industry knowledge, we tap into our Accelerated Intelligence team’s vast library of subscription research reports, databases, and collective intelligence. This multifaceted approach gives you a pulse on the industry and market ensuring you have done your homework and are best positioned for success in addressing your business need/question.
Written by Nicole Garberg, VP of Customer Experience (CX) at Big Village Insights.