It’s Time To Prioritize Market Insights Evolution

Market insights professionals typically have to make a lot of decisions around how to optimize a limited budget with high (and ever increasing) demands for insights. Which stakeholders? Which projects? Which methodologies? Which vendors? Which tools? The decisions facing market insights leaders are tough ones, and prioritization is an imperative.

Unfortunately, what often doesn’t get prioritized is the evaluation and development of the market insights organization’s own capabilities! Without investing in itself, market insights runs the risk of getting stuck in a vicious cycle:

In the past months, Forrester has researched and analyzed how market insights professionals can turn this around. We have just published the first six chapters — and an executive overview — of the Market Insights Optimization Playbook. What steps and guidance are shared in these reports? They will help you:

  • See where you need to be. Forrester provides you with a vision of what market insights can become, and what it needs to become, in order to keep its stakeholders customer-aligned and ahead of competitive disruptions.
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Forrester's Guide To Building Influence And Driving Business Value


By now, you’ve probably heard about Forrester’s Playbooks. These amazing how-to guides are showing a variety of professionals how to go from vision to best practice to optimization of key Forrester big ideas. And the good news is . . . we’re working on a playbook for market insights professionals!

We’ve been listening to you and have heard your challenges with gaining influence, linking insights to strategic decisions that drive business value, and being able to show how much value market insights add. We know that market insights are a crucial value-add for the business and can help drive smart business decisions — and we’re in the process of creating a playbook to show you just how to do that.

The Insights to Business Value Playbook will walk you through Forrester’s vision for the next-generation market insights organization and then show you, step by step, how to get there. As this is a major evolution of our role, the details will be laid out in 12 separate reports which will allow you to:

  • Discover what a cutting-edge market insights organization is. The first three reports will walk you through the Vision for the next-generation market insights organization, show the Landscape of how far organizations have evolved toward this goal, and help you make the Business case to gain the funding you need to move your organization forward.
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What Your CFO Needs To Know About Market Insights

Savvy market insights professionals understand that the CFO is the ultimate budget decision-maker and, as such, merits outreach by the head of market insights to show the value-add market insights provides. But does your CFO get market insights? Or does he or she see your department as a discretionary cost center? Reach out and share with him or her how market insights contributes to the business:

  • Market insights influences top-line growth.By identifying client needs, competitive gaps, cross-sell correlations, and new market opportunities (among other deliverables), market insights helps the company identify and optimize revenue growth potential.
  • Market insights influences bottom-line growth. By identifying lower-cost (and acceptable) ways to meet customer needs (e.g., replacing phone support with IM chat support) and by identifying better competitive delivery methods (among other deliverables), market insights helps the company reduce the cost of key functions, which improves the company’s bottom line.
  • Market insights influences brand value and market cap growth.By fueling high customer satisfaction, loyalty, and willingness to recommend as well as identifying messages that help the company own high-value brand attributes (among other deliverables), market insights helps the company build its brand perception, which can fuel improvements in brand equity and market capitalization.
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And Now For Something Completely Different . . .

Market insights professionals tend to work long hours, under a lot of pressure, with a need to produce ever more with ever less. Needless to say, this can make us a bit, well, stressed and serious. Sometimes too serious for our own good.

So, every once in a while, it’s good to connect with our inner child — or connect with our real children (who may be wondering why mommy and daddy are working so much). Last week, Forresterites in Cambridge got to actually do both with our annual Bring Your Kid To Work Day. It brought a whole new meaning to multitasking!

Morning was spent balancing serious emails with serious games. The juxtaposition really helped me understand that we don’t have to be so serious to do great work. In fact, being too serious might actually be an impediment to the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that market insights professionals so need to bring to the position nowadays!

The height of the day for me was when I brought my nine-year old son to my “office.” OK, it’s a cubicle. Nothing to write home about, but he thought it was the coolest thing in the world! Being still somewhat in a frame of mind to play games, I started to see my office in a whole new light!

So what is the deep analytical insight of this blog? Well, nothing. And sometimes that’s OK. It’s good for market insights professionals to take some time off, do nothing, be like a kid (or with a kid), let your mind wander, and do silly things. This is also, by the way, how creative ideas are formed, how innovations are born, and how, perhaps paradoxically, market insights professionals might find a way to do more with less!

Just Do It!

Whew, just back from four content-packed days at the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) re:Think 2012conference. It was great to meet up with many of you there and connect through Twitter. If you missed my Twitter stream, click herefor a summary or check out the re:Think feed here.

So, what are the key takeaways for Market Insights Professionals from the conference? Simply, we need to:

  • Improve! On Day 1, we heard several passionate presentations on the need for market insights to evolve and deliver higher-value and more actionable insights. On the next day, Kantar’s CEO said the profession needed improved talent to meet the business’ needs and the ARF discussed the need for improved research and respondent quality.
  • Innovate! A number of presentations focused on the need for market insights to develop better predictive tools, identify white spaces more effectively, and package insights in more innovative ways. There were many calls for market insights to bring much more creativity to the table.
  • Integrate! Although not identified as a theme, I would say integration was the “glue” that connected most of the presentations. Whether the presentations were about connecting social to surveys, insights to ROI, or even biometric to behavioral data, it was clear that “integration” is the path to help market insights improve and innovate.
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Of Mad Men And Market Insights Professionals

So, I’m off to the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) re:Think 2012conference next week. This started me “rethinking” how advertising has changed over the decades, and what that means for market insights professionals.

Back when I was born, advertising was a no-brainer. TV. If you could afford it. Only 3 channels to choose from so the “marketing mix model” was not really complicated. Did you need a lot of research to optimize your advertising? Hmmm, with all eyeballs tuned to you, research-optimized content probably was not as important as it is today (for a trip down memory lane, click here).

Fast-forward a few decades and customer choices have exploded. Has TV been killed by the Facebook star? Should you invest more in Google Adworks than traditional media column inches? If you do venture into social media, in which of the 1,000s of sites do you find your customers? And are they your best customers, i.e. the ones you really want to attract? It’s like playing Find Waldo, except that Waldo is a fickle consumer who keeps moving around.

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If Only We Had Done X (Lessons In Project Management)

How many of you have managed consulting projects that didn’t turn out as planned and left you saying, “If only we had done . . .” ? Have you ever wondered how many steps and criteria are involved in successful consulting projects? And do you know how to avoid project failures?

In an upcoming research report, “Five Stages To Optimize The Research Process,” Forrester will lay out the five key stages, 30-plus key steps, and 130-plus key criteria identified in successful consulting projects. Not all criteria are equal and required for every project, but miss some key criteria and project steps and you could have a project crisis (or expensive failure) on your hands.

Some highlights for each of the key project stages:

  • Preparing. We identified 33 key criteria that help MI professionals avoid rushing into the project design without having a clear idea of potential gains and risks, timelines, and threats and how they will prove value-add.
  • Designing. Forrester found 36 key criteria to help build successful project designs. Some of the most overlooked were identifying all the stakeholders, their expectations, capabilities, and timing so that deliverables were designed from the start to be stakeholder-aligned.
  • Implementing.From finalizing scope to RFPs, final project plans, and kick-offs, Forrester found 27 criteria involved in making sure your project gets off on the right foot. Like creating a deliverable template that matches the goal and making sure that everyone is on the same page with what they need to do by when so that you don’t crash your timelines.
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2012 Market Insights Professionals – Better … Stronger … Faster?

As the world starts discussing the intricacies of the Mayan calendar, Nostradamus’ predictions and the potential appearance of “Planet X” in 2012, we thought we would get the conversation focused on something much more important … the future of Market Insights. No, there’s no doomsday planned for our profession but, yes, there may be some cataclysmic events for some market insights professionals as they get hit by increasing demands from executives and stakeholders who are struggling to keep up with competitive disruption and fast-changing customer preferences.

Forrester will shortly publish the “Predictions 2012: What Will Happen In Market Research” report. In it, we’ll detail major tectonic shifts which we’ve been monitoring in the industry and why we are reaching a tipping point where constancy is now riskier than change. Some factors contributing to this include:

  • Companies need to change.Disruptors are changing the rules of the game with their “shoot-aim-ready!” business model and the internet has greatly enhanced customer power, influence and choice.  To survive in this environment, companies need to embrace continuous market and performance monitoring and business improvement.
  • Market insights needs to change. Changes at the company level will force market insights departments to change their deliverables and business processes. Key changes include providing more agile insights, deeper and more strategic insights and more proactive competitive intelligence. Those which don’t face being replaced by Shadow MI.
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Market Insights Needs To Collaborate Better With Customer Experience

Recently, I had a discussion with my colleague Andrew McInnes about the role market insights (MI) can play for customer experience departments, and why so many customer experience (CX) teams are doing research themselves instead of collaborating with their MI counterparts. In this talk we came up with the term “shadow MI.”

Shadow MI: research commissioned or executed OUTSIDE of the MI department. It applies to all research done by a person or group inside the company without the approval or involvement of market insights.

Shadow MI is not good for the company or MI stakeholders. Key risks in shadow MI include:

  • Fragmented knowledge. Distributed research and insights can undermine the organization’s knowledgebase and understanding of customers, competitors, and markets.
  • Bad business decisions. Improper research techniques (sampling, surveys, fielding, analysis) can lead to the wrong conclusions and the wrong decisions.
  • Subpar solutions. Lack of robust data cross-analysis and comparison can result in blind spots and missing aspects of an optimal solution.
  • Higher costs. Individually negotiated purchases can undermine scale-related discounts.
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Your Company Will Be Disrupted. What’s Your Plan?

Maybe you’re working for a software company that suddenly faces a free cloud-based solution (funded by advertising). Or perhaps you’re in a clothing retail chain whose market share is under attack from an offshore company using webcams to offer virtual fitting rooms and cut-to-order clothing. If you are employed by a brick-and-mortar retailer of DVD rentals, music, or books, you’ve already been disrupted and have either found a safe niche to hide in or are in the process of liquidating your stock.

Disruption cannot be avoided. Today, rapid changes in technology, customer preferences, competitive capabilities, market dynamics, even government regulations, make continual adaptation a requirement to avoid disruption, which can result in market share and even business loss. Can you help your company prepare for disruption? Even more valuable: Can you help your company be the one that has the insights to disrupt its competitors?!

For market insights professionals, the constant threat of disruption creates a new mandate: Provide the insights that help stakeholders understand where, what, how, how much, and why changes need to be made. So:

  • How well can you hear the voice of the customer?
  • How well do you understand competitive capabilities?
  • Have you worked through potential change scenarios with stakeholders?
  • Do you have the ability to spot early signs of change?
  • Do you have a plan for what you’ll do when change happens?
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