Market research as a profit center: How smart companies use customer feedback to generate revenue

Market research as a profit center: How smart companies use customer feedback to generate revenue

One of the biggest disruptions in the market research industry is the monetization of the research practice. According to research expert Ray Poynter, more insight teams are generating revenue by providing market research data and other value-added services to partners, sponsors and advertisers. Driven by new technologies like insight communities, this trend is one of the consequences of the move towards faster and cheaper research.

At the 2016 Customer Intelligence Summit, two innovative brands shared how they’re taking advantage of this trend. In a breakout session, Amy Moore, strategic insights data manager at Kelley Blue Book, and Steve McSpiritt, market research specialist at Barnes & Noble College, revealed the steps they took to start generating revenue from customer feedback.

The session provided plenty of interesting tips on transforming research teams into a revenue-generating function of the business. Here are some highlights from the session.

Build thought leadership and brand awareness.

Establishing credibility and awareness is a crucial first step to monetizing research. For the research teams at both Barnes & Noble College and Kelley Blue Book, securing media partnerships and coverage in top-tier publications helped to build buzz.

Amy Moore, strategic insights data manager at Kelley Blue Book
Amy Moore, strategic insights data manager at Kelley Blue Book

For example, as a company offering expert car valuation, Kelley Blue Book’s business depends on having an authoritative voice. Its insight community, the Kelley Blue Book Blue Ribbon Panel, helps the company gather long-term consumer data from over 11,000 automotive owners and shoppers. The community allows Kelley Blue Book to quickly collect insight about consumer trends, which lets it offer timely industry information to top-tier publications like USA Today, Forbes and The New York Times.

Similarly, the research team at Barnes & Noble College has pursued mutually beneficial, strategic partnerships in order to build credibility. Recently, for instance, the company partnered with MONEY for the magazine’s ‘best colleges’ issue. Barnes & Noble College provided the magazine with original data on the attitudes of both students and parents toward picking colleges. Engaging with members of the Barnes & Noble College Student POV, the company found that a fulfilling career was more important to students than a high-paying job.

According to Moore, research teams need to take greater advantage of their ability to collect immediate results in order to gain media visibility for the brand and its research team.

Establishing credibility and awareness is a crucial first step to monetizing research.

Find ways to boost your partners’ ROI.

To convince other companies to pay for customer intelligence you’ve gathered, you need to demonstrate tangible ROI.

Steve McSpiritt, market research specialist at Barnes & Noble College
Steve McSpiritt, market research specialist at Barnes & Noble College

Think of ways to provide more business value to new and existing partners. In addition to research, Barnes & Noble College leverages its presence at 770 college campuses, nationwide, to give brand partners access to their customers through on-campus and digital marketing programs, customized to fit each partner’s specific program objectives.

Barnes & Noble College Marketing (BNCM) works closely with partners before a campaign launches to ensure success. The company conducts pre-campaign research to optimize its partner’s marketing spend and make the program resonate most with students. After the promotion runs its course, the company uses its insight community to measure program results and provides that valuable marketing information to partners.

Boosting value for partner advertisers is also critical for Kelley Blue Book. The company leverages the wealth of data it has—including data from its insight community—to help advertisers get more bang for their marketing buck. This creates a virtuous cycle: data from Kelley Blue Book helps advertisers run more successful marketing campaigns, which encourages them to buy more advertising from the company.

Think and act like a marketer.

Ultimately, generating revenue from research requires a new mindset—moving beyond the traditional role of market research in the company and adopting marketing thinking. It’s a question of spotting and seizing opportunities, and tailoring your message to your prospective client or partner.

“Be more than just a division—be a disruptor.”

Moore’s closing advice is to look for creative ways to use the data and insight you already have for mutually beneficial projects with partners and advertisers. McSpiritt agreed, saying market researchers should be aggressive and innovative in order to take full advantage of the opportunities in monetizing insight.

McSpiritt predicted that the industry will see more infusion of marketing thinking into research. For Barnes & Noble College, that means providing a full-service research offering that mixes both traditional research methods (like focus groups) with newer ways of getting student insight (like insight communities and data from an active digital community of approximately 6.5 million e-commerce customers).

“Be more than just a division—be a disruptor,” concluded McSpiritt.


  • After reading the article, I would like to connect my opinion with the quote of Tony Hsieh,

    “Let’s take most of the money we would’ve spent on paid advertising and paid marketing and instead of spending it on that invest it in the customer experience/customer service and then let the customer do the marketing for us through word of mouth”

    The wise entrepreneur always knows the importance of customer experience; he would not blindly spend all the money on paid advertising. He would also consider the actual need and satisfaction of customer. Market Research is the ultimate tool to increase you business. Even when I started my business, I conducted the research with the help of and trust me that helped me later a lot in increasing the ROI.
    Thank you Kelvin for the wonderful article.

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