If research teams want to shake the perception that market research is a cost center, they need to speak the C-suite's language.
This means research leaders must adjust how they showcase their successes to executives so that customer intelligence is seen as a strategic corporate asset. Rather just being seen as a line item in the budget, research leaders must demonstrate how the metrics they track, such as response rates, align with the corporate-level key performance indicators (KPIs) executives care about—metrics such as revenue and churn.
To make those connections, smart research teams have changed how they talk about contributions to the company—and elevated their role and influence in the process.
Align activities with the aspirations of the C-Suite
Listening to your executives is a good start. LinkedIn, the world’s biggest professional social network, provides a good example.
Two of LinkedIn’s core values are “Members First” and “Relationships Matter.” Business leaders, including LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, are the biggest advocates for these principles. But these lofty values are not unique to LinkedIn. What makes the professional networking site different is it doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk.
This can be seen in the way LinkedIn continuously engages members to guide how the company develops its products. It learns from its relationships with members and uses their feedback to identify product innovation opportunities and enhancements that should be prioritized.
But it doesn’t just use its own platform. Its insight communities have also been a source of useful member feedback that uncovers needed product enhancements. For example, it recently worked with Microsoft to develop a product that users could use to create resumés, but when LinkedIn engaged its insight community, the product team identified a common challenge for users: how to write a resume. This insight helped the company identify a critical pain point and inspired the product team to brainstorm features that would help users portray their qualifications more effectively.
Influence strategic decisions—and show your contribution to revenue
Money talks, so research teams should demonstrate to the C-suite their role in raking it in.
Media organization POLITICO has been able to turn its research into revenue by leveraging audience insight to improve the user experience. Through its insight community, POLITICO has been able to learn more about its audience and create a centralized insight engine.
Key to POLITICO’s success is its research team's approach. It opted to use clear metrics and implement a slower rollout. By conducting interviews with stakeholders to make sure the insight department lived up to other departments’ expectations, it identified quick wins that immediately showcased the value of ongoing audience engagement. POLITICO saw a 75% growth in unique podcast listeners and $5 million in sales revenue in first eight months of using an insight community.
This success in turn drove the development of a new audience insight and data team.
Insight does boost the bottom line
As the examples above show, research does contribute the bottom line or to KPIs that ladder up to revenue. The trick for insight teams is demonstrating to the C-suite that their activities drove meaningful metrics.
Teams that use an insight community are in a good position to make research ROI more relevant to business leaders. One of the biggest benefits of an insight community is that engagement feels meaningful and valuable to customers. This engagement drives honest feedback in less time and less effort to inform projects, providing agile insight that drives top-line KPIs.
Customers volunteer to be part of the community because they genuinely want to share feedback they believe will make a difference. They see and hear the result of their feedback firsthand. That combination helps brands build relationships, drive engagement and boost customer lifetime value.
Community members showed a 39% increase in average order value and a 70% lower churn rate than non-community members resulting in increased sales of $4.7 million.
In a recent study commissioned by Vision Critical, Forrester Consulting found that insight communities help companies hit corporate-level KPIs such as revenue and churn. For example, community members showed a 39% increase in average order value and a 70% lower churn rate than non-community members resulting in increased sales of $4.7 million. The composite organization Forrester created for the study also saw increased customer engagement from insight community members when compared to regular customers. The analysis expects attributed revenue to increase as the insight community size also increases.
The success of organizations such as LinkedIn and POLITICO offer further proof that customer insight solves real pain points and creates opportunity for new revenue. By showcasing success stories, research teams can speak the language of the C-suite and demonstrate they are a strategic corporate asset, not just another cost center.