Knowing Your Customers and The Discomfort of Acting On It

Knowing Your Customers and The Discomfort of Acting On It
July 28, 2017 Eva Van Krugel

As a marketing leader and planner by trade, I’ve been utterly insights obsessed for years. At an embarrassingly young age, I fell in love with the work of Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, author of The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do, if only for writing, “I don’t believe what people say”. Then I became enamored by the world of online qualitative research which opened a whole other world that challenges what people say versus what they do, rooted in an unbelievable level of fascinating intimacy and candor with participants.

At this stage of life, I’m unapologetic about my inner geek, as it has served my clients and their customers very well. I’m fascinated by the psychology behind decision-making, what motivates and inspires and what lies beneath inhibitions and complete distastes of consumers. It’s all rich ground for learning about the humans that constitute the fabric of what brands call their customers. Without understanding who they are, what they think, say and do, we put at risk significant in-market expenditures both in marketing and research dollars and CEO’s asking marketing leaders, “why isn’t the needle moving?”. Of course, consumer insights take up only a slice of the research pie to inform actionable marketing plans, but that slice is a critical one to pave a much clearer, more results-driven path for businesses. Plus, it respects the people that make up those customer bases. Isn’t that the right thing to do?

The idea of KYC (know your customer) isn’t a new concept. It’s been buzzing around for years. It’s just that today, we have access to constantly advancing technology and tools in research than perhaps we’ve ever experienced. We see methodologies being challenged and progressing, not to mention an ongoing harvest of incredibly interesting new platforms. Take one of our valued partners Remesh as an example. They offer “human powered artificial intelligence…replacing polls and surveys with a conversation”. Hybrid what they do with the work of Upwords in online qualitative work let’s say, and now the ability to immerse, engage and become more deeply intimate with customers is at an all-time high – with more data, collected faster.

But what does all this matter if a study was conducted and it isn’t actionable? Or, maybe it is actionable, but implementation within the client organization feels inhibited?

Maybe you’re in a marketing role within an organization and you’ve got a brand, campaign or product initiative approaching and customer research will be key. Or, perhaps you’re a research manager in a company with a marketing department, and you want to see to it the work you do and with outside research partners is actually going to go somewhere vs the dusty archive pile. In either case, these are the top three things I’ve learned if you want your consumer research to go from a report, to being truly ‘actionable’ within your organization:

  1. Before working with a research partner, understand what ‘actionable’ means to them. Ask them to demonstrate tangible ways in which they’ve worked with clients to succeed in their businesses based on insights and recommendations made within their reporting that link back directly to objectives. Ask them to share ways in which they’ve supported teams when it comes to implementation to know they’ll ‘have your back’ and be at your side with the expertise and objectivity only they can bring.
  2. Team up with your research partner on the recommendations. As a marketer and/or an agency partner, you’re closest to the business and marketing objectives of a given plan or initiative. Your research partner brings a clean slate and an open mind with deep knowledge from a given study and outcomes. Build on the implications of the study and discuss what a desired state might look like to form a clear set of recommendations for the business. This collaboration can be very empowering and rewarding, leading to a new level of ownership and conviction associated with the reporting, which can influence what actually gets ‘actioned’ upon.
  3. Put an engagement plan together. Think about the primary decision-makers and influencers critical to the success of the work ahead of you. Connect with them proactively so they know what they’re in for, when and why they’ll be needed, and emphasize this work cannot succeed without their engagement and input.

The plan should include things like:

  • Bring them into the initial briefing stage to discuss challenges, opportunities and define clear objectives. At minimum, ensure they’ve got a voice in this stage and you have their complete buy-in before you proceed.
  • Blocking time in their calendars in advance, inviting them to join the back room to observe real, engaged participants and share comments with the moderator. At Upwords, we invite clients consistently to join our ‘virtual back room’ so they can see the online study live and in action, share comments and scroll through tags of insights as they’re evolving. This enables a context and proximity to the work which will prove helpful come time for the ‘action plan’ out of reporting.
  • Book a meeting with your stakeholders that invites the research team to the table to present the report, findings and implications. But as suggested earlier, make sure you’ve teamed up with the research team in advance on the ‘recommendations’ piece. In this way, the researchers can illuminate the data from a different angle, balanced with relevant context you bring. From here, healthy, inclusive debate with your decision-makers could be just what’s needed to enable those solid, insights-driven recommendations to actually see the light of day.

We’re in an all-time high of advanced offerings and capability enabling new levels of clarity for clients. Embracing the evolution and tools around us and finding our position in it all, we hold the ability to dig deeper than ever before into real human truths that can be of immense benefit to businesses. Maybe it’s intimidating, but let’s think back to why we got ourselves into marketing and research in the first place. Was it to be comfortable? I didn’t think so.

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