"Today, customer understanding is the responsibility of everyone.”
- Hank Barnes, Vice President, Distinguished Analyst, Tech Go-to-Market Team, Gartner
As a market researcher, building a deep knowledge of your customers is something you do on a regular basis. But the insights you work so hard to discover might not be providing the organization as much value as you think. Maybe the research is stuck in silos, or people outside of your team simply don’t know where to find it. Whatever the reason, if your data is going unused, there’s a problem.
People across the organization need those insights to make better decisions. According to Gartner Analyst Hank Barnes: “By understanding your customer deeply, you are better able to anticipate needs, create solutions that matter, and display empathy throughout the process.”
But democratizing your insights—or giving people open access to them—takes a strategic approach, which isn’t always easy. So we’ve gathered seven of our best tips to help you get started.
1. Know your (internal) audience.
Just as marketers seek to understand external customers so they can develop relevant messaging, researchers need to do the same with internal customers. This means not only knowing what information people need, but how they prefer to receive it so they’ll get the most value from it.
For example, busy executives are more likely to want a short overview or dashboard where they can quickly access the insights most important to them, while other employees might want an in-depth presentation and deeper discussion. In a Quirk’s Media article, a market research expert from Groupon offers the following tip:
“I’m all about putting research-driven insights into the hands of individuals at all levels of the organization. For example, it may be a one-pager of takeaways for an executive briefing, a 25-slide PowerPoint for the project manager to inform all details of a roll-out, or a 30-second video for the whole company to bring a certain consumer segment to life.”
- Irene Voisin, Senior Market Research Manager, Groupon
2. Don’t just present your findings — tell a story.
Storytelling not only helps people relate to and remember information, but it also adds value. A recent study by Origin found that online products and services accompanied by a detailed story were perceived to be more valuable than those with a standard description alone.
For example, people who were shown a photo of a hotel room that also included a story from someone who stayed in that hotel perceived the room value as higher than consumers who saw only a description of the room and its amenities.
By applying this concept to your research findings, you can help people better understand the insights you provide, as well as prompt them to take action based on those insights.
“CI teams visually interpret and display data and use storytelling techniques to spur business partners, executives, boards, and other stakeholders to action.”
- Christine Barton, Senior Partner and Managing Director, BCG
Once people get more value from the data you provide, they’ll begin to assign more value to the research function as a whole. If you think your storytelling skills need some polish, use storytelling devices like narrative flow, emotional appeal, theatrics and simplicity to help you craft memorable stories.
“Research storytelling is not so much about stories as much as it is about the devices you use to tell your story. Great communicators use techniques drawn from storytelling to deliver a message that is going to be engaging, understood, accepted and acted on.”
- Ray Poynter, Founder of NewMR
3. Don’t start with key takeaways.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever started a presentation with a listing of key takeaways. While many people do the same, you’re likely to make a bigger impact if you build up to those takeaways throughout the presentation rather than rattling them off at the start.
Chris Jesurun, manager of consumer and brand insights for Potbelly Sandwich Shop, recommends changing it around by uncovering your learnings with each page of the deck, and revealing your key takeaways at the end.
“I now create decks that build what we’ve learned from one slide to the next. When done right, decision-makers get invested in the outcome and the decks become page-turners.”
- Chris Jesurun, Manager of Consumer and Brand Insights, Potbelly Sandwich Shop
4. Consider digestible content formats.
For the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), providing customer insights to decision-makers quickly is an important element in customer centricity. Susan Corbelli, market research supervisor at SMUD, says that as the demand for customer insights increases, the research function has shifted from traditional, text-heavy reporting documents to formats that are more user friendly and engaging, like online communities, dashboards and interactive meetings.
“We had to adopt more agile methodologies and better reporting tools. We are moving away from 50-page PowerPoint decks in favor of more lightweight reporting, storytelling through the Vision Critical platform, and workshop-style meetings with a whiteboard and post-it notes.”
- Susan Corbelli, Market Research Supervisor, SMUD
5. Experiment with videos.
At Vision Critical, we’ve seen the power of sharing insights through video in our own organization. To distribute feedback about our annual Customer Intelligence Summit, we created a video rather than send a spreadsheet or email. In the video, people from marketing, sales, customer success and product shared key insights from the study around what attendees thought we did well during the event, and what improvements needed to be made.
Not only did the video increase employee engagement, we were also able to involve different people from the organization who felt proud to be recognized in the project.
6. Use the right technology.
If you really want to democratize your data, you’re going to need some help. There’s no shortage of tools that allow you to share insights with your colleagues, but according to ClickZ, here are some major features to look for:
- the ability to easily share dashboards and reports
- different levels of access rights that can be granted based on user profiles
- customizable measurements
- a sophisticated, integrated API
“The right technology makes it easier for the experts to share their knowledge, ultimately leading to more accountability and efficiency, better ROI and company culture, and most importantly, happier customers.”
- Mike O’Brien, ClickZ journalist
7. Create a centralized location for insight-sharing.
At Vision Critical, we’ve seen the benefits of providing one place for decision-makers to share insights. When we began developing our customer personas, we knew we needed a central place to exchange ideas, as well as a way to make changes quickly based on stakeholder feedback, such as swapping out images associated with our personas.
So, we created a Stakeholder Hub—a centralized place where employees and customers could access our team’s insights. Stakeholders could ask questions or contribute ideas right in the Hub, making it easy for everyone to stay moving in the same direction. We also used metadata to help us keep our different personas organized.
“In our Hub, we created a collection and used metadata tags to differentiate buyer personas (those involved in buying our platform but not necessarily involved in day-to-day use) from customer personas.”
- Robert Hein, Customer Experience Enablement Specialist, Vision Critical
Higher visibility, higher ROI
The more people can use your insights to make better decisions, the more value your research function will have. Encourage that use by giving everyone easy access to customer insight. Not only will you increase the visibility of your research team, but you’ll also deliver the ROI that will help you secure higher budgets, and keep your company moving forward.
For more resources and tips, check out The Must-Have Toolkit for Market Researchers.