In a business world hungry for insight, market researchers need to be prepared to defend their work and convince decision-makers to make decisions based on data, not just gut.
That’s according to Jake Steadman, senior director of international and agency research at Twitter. Jake is one of 10 influential researchers I featured in the e-book Leaders of change: How researchers reimagine customer relationships and insight.
As I mention in the e-book, Jake is a research powerhouse with over 15 years of experience. Starting his career on the agency side, he’s spent the last eight years on the client side, working with telecommunications and technology companies. He’s a board member of the MRS, the UK’s market research society, and an active member of The Delphi Group.
In our Q&A below, Jake answers our questions about research ROI and how it’s like to work at Twitter, a company that is both a client and provider of research. He also shares why it’s important for researchers to adopt a sales mentality.
What are the main challenges that you have faced in promoting the role and use of insights?
At Twitter, everyone wants research and data so we don’t have this challenge. In past roles, however, I found that people wanted research until it delivered a message that challenged assumptions or expectations. In these cases, people can question the research methodology as opposed to accept the implications of the insight. That’s where researchers can make an impact. It’s our job to ensure our research is robust and its messages are taken seriously.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
At Twitter, we’ve delivered some incredible work that has had a significant impact on growing our business. Our work has defined the value that Twitter offers advertisers and driven revenue growth around the globe.
That said, my biggest achievement has been building high performing research teams in nine different and diverse markets. I’m incredibly proud of the quality of people we hire here. They’re world class researchers. More importantly, they’re all brilliant human beings.
How do you measure the ROI of research?
A lot of our work at Twitter is about assessing the ROI of marketing for our clients. Clients increase their spend based on the positive ROI they see, so we can attribute a clear dollar value to our work. We’re very lucky to be able to do this so cleanly.
How have you been able to take research beyond its typical silos?
Researchers aren’t always the most natural sales people in the world, and that can hinder our ability to break down silos.
At Twitter, we put as much effort into how we deliver and package our research as we do into doing it. We focus on creative delivery and inspiring others, not death by data. Even your most enthusiastic colleague doesn’t want to sit through 50+ PowerPoint slides of numbers and graphs. It’s so boring!
Which books, podcasts or other resources have made the most impact to your career in research, and why?
I love the Eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat. podcast by Bruce Daisley and I fully subscribe to his workplace manifesto. I do my best to ensure that my teams implement is as far as possible.
The manifesto is:
1. Presume permission: Waiting for permission restricts innovation.
2. Forty hours is enough: We have this idea that the more we work, the more we accomplish. It's not true.
3. Reclaim your lunch: Taking a break is really important. Same applies to holidays—they should be an work-free zone.
4. Got to be me: Don’t try to be someone that you’re not—passion and personality matter.
5. Laugh: Chat directly correlates to workplace creativity. Bring the lols.