5 ways to become an ‘A’ player in the Insights profession

A few weeks ago, I attended The Market Research Event in Orlando. With many of our clients focused on generating actionable insights and segmenting target markets, I thought that this conference would allow me to interact with thought leaders in these functions and discuss what they’re thinking about on a daily basis. Following two days of informative sessions led by leaders from F500 companies, I walked away with a restored appreciation of the work my clients are doing as well as a better understanding of the challenges that they’re up against.

A recurring theme centered around the disconnect between the research that insights professionals were compiling and the BUs taking actionable steps based upon recommendations. Many felt their reports and findings were oftentimes read through once, acknowledged, and then put on an imaginary shelf to collect dust.

The good news is that some of the speakers were able to provide clear actions to help mitigate this frustrating reality that the insights community continually comes up against. Below are five distinct tactics that individuals have been utilizing to become A players amongst researchers:

1) Avoid creating insights in a vacuum

Most teams take 6–8 weeks to bring their final conclusions to leadership. While everyone agrees that gathering the necessary data and properly synthesizing these sets does require several weeks of work, it does not have to be done in isolation. Checking in with your client as soon as 2 weeks into a new initiative to review high level observations and overall direction for the project can go a long way in ensuring you’re headed down the right path. Not only will 1–3 of these check-ins during a study help align expectations but also ensure the client is receiving information that may be time sensitive. At the conference, we heard numerous stories where teams took 1–2 months to get something in front of their client and in that time period the competition had already capitalized on a movement in the market.

2) Researchers love data, but does your client?

Researchers and those in the insights profession love data, finding patterns that exist within it, and applying these observations to the business in order to generate impact. Many individuals fail to realize that their audience, however, may think much more qualitatively about the business and actually prefer to stay far away from the specific details that make up the bigger picture. Senior leadership within BUs report that they want to walk away from an insights presentation with 3–5 strong conclusions and key takeaways for them to act on, not a myriad of facts and figures.

Perhaps you found the journey taken to get to final takeaways may have been the most interesting part of the process but it may not be as interesting to the audience. By starting with the bigger picture, you allow your audience to ask questions around research and process but don’t take the conversation there yourself. Many professionals reported this way of communicating became much easier after they got the team to think of themselves as Strategy function, rather than an Insights, Research, or Analytics team.

3) Follow your recommendations beyond the presentation

Almost all Insights professionals know the presentation should not stop with conclusions drawn from data, but should end with clear recommendations for next steps. Some all-stars have even gone a step further and ‘track’ their recommendations after presenting to see which ones actually resulted in a strategy shift or action. Trends in which specific recommendations were taken on will undoubtedly emerge over time, uncovering ways to increase the probability of an idea being implemented by senior management down the road.

4) Share your insights across business units

Even if you don’t think something might be 100% related to another stakeholder, ask if the info can be shared. By sharing your findings with other groups, you can quickly turn yourself into a crucial knowledge sharing resource that people will begin to depend on to help connect the dots across a large organization. The work has already been done and sharing should be relatively easy whether it involves putting 30 minutes on someone’s calendar or simply sending a deliverable around. This is a great way to add value without putting too much more on your plate.

As we approach the end of 2017, some A players recommended creating a list of the Top 10 Insights from the year and sharing it with everyone. Consolidating your body of work will help showcase the actionable insights. Perhaps something might even be followed up on by management after getting a second look and being reminded.

5) Use experts to help deliver the message

We’re sure you have used primary research in some capacity throughout the fact finding process, whether it was through expert interviews, surveys, etc. In order to help bolster messaging in a client presentation, some Insights teams reflected on using subject matter experts or asking individuals representing the new customer segment groups to join presentations where they explain the findings. These perspectives not only help reinforce the message as an external, unbiased individual, but this also helps the audience retain the information afterwards due to the uniqueness of the interaction.

How many of the above is your Insights team already doing? Do these findings resonate across all industries?

Greg Sexton is the Global Vice President of Corporate Accounts at AlphaSights. As one of the founding members of the New York office, Greg has pioneered the use of knowledge search across the Fortune 1000. Under AlphaSights’ service model, teams connect clients with custom recruited, industry specific experts who answer their toughest research questions, help validate their hypotheses, and identify opportunities that may have otherwise been missed.