February 2010

Better Insight – How to Ensure Your Research Leads to Action!


Dear Reader,

With spring in the air, and snowdrops in full bloom, this is a great time of year for fresh initiatives.

You may be thinking of taking your business into a new market or wondering how you can offer an even better service to your existing customers. Commissioning research is a great way to help decide which direction to take.

But knowing where you want to be isn’t enough. Your research must lead you towards action.

So if you’re poised to ‘spring’ into action, our practical action-focused tips (below) are designed to get you where you need to be.

Happy reading!

Martin Holliss

e: martinh@research-insight.com
t: +44 1235 812 456
m: +44 7931 376501

So How Do You Ensure Your Research Study Leads to Action?


Choose a champion. Making sure that research leads to action often requires human leadership. Someone senior is needed – ideally at board level – to ensure the issues and actions identified by the research are high on your organisation’s priority list. Without such a champion, you risk commitment to action fizzling out.

Focus on the possible. When designing your research study, think about the things that might emerge. That way the research is more likely to reveal action or initiatives that are feasible for your organisation. For example, if your board has already vetoed capital investment, your research agency will know to explore other areas and solutions.

But be open-minded too. Yes, recommendations must be feasible. But do also be open to the research raising issues or problems that have not been thought of, or that are more important than you had expected. If that happens, it’s a bonus – what is the point of commissioning research that only tells you what you already know?

Don’t overload the brief. Having decided to invest in research, it can be tempting to cram in more and more topics and issues. Don’t! Without clear focus, the results will be woolly. Try to focus your research brief on a limited set of clearly-defined issues.

Make your objectives concrete. Try drafting no more than 3 – 5 bullet-point objectives that go something like this: ‘To better understand…’ ‘To explore…’ ‘To assess…’ ‘To quantify…’ Expressing objectives in this way will help you focus your thoughts, and will give your agency a clear idea of why you are commissioning the research.

Insist on robust recommendations. If you want your research study to lead to action, you will need your agency to make a set of action-focused recommendations. This means choosing an agency with a track record for making clear and robust recommendations. Ask for client references to check this out.

Assign responsibility for action. When you have your report – complete with robust recommendations – run a worksession with a range of stakeholders (see below for how to do this). But be clear – the main purpose of this is not to put PowerPoint through its paces (!) but to agree action and assign responsibility to specific people, complete with a timeline for action.

The AM/PM Worksession

A powerful way to guarantee action is to run an AM/PM Worksession.

For the ‘AM Brainstorm Session’, invite 15–20 people to attend. They should be both internal and external, drawn from employees, customers, distributors, suppliers, journalists and other interested groups. After a short introduction to the situation (often including headlines from the research), your aim is to brainstorm what is happening and why, who you can learn most from (eg specific competitors), and what you need to change.

Independently facilitated, this session should focus on different issues/topics and is likely to last 2 or 3 hours (with a break for coffee and sticky buns!).

After a buffet lunch, a smaller group of decision-makers should reconvene for the ‘PM Action Session’. Typically this is an internal, staff only, session, where your main aim is to prioritise the issues and possible actions, and to make decisions about what to change, who should do it, and by when.

What Else Do We Do?


At Research Insight we offer clients of wide range of different studies designed to improve business performance. Among the studies we offer are:

Customer/competitor surveys – knowing more about why people buy from you or your competitors will enable you to make strategic decisions to increase satisfaction and keep one step ahead of the competition.

Brand/corporate image surveys – exploring perceptions of your brand or company, and discovering the attributes that drive customer preferences, will give you valuable insights for building an effective communication strategy.

Employee surveys – assessing staff views independently, and taking action on areas of dissatisfaction, will improve retention rates and increase your business’s productivity.

Market share research – how are you doing compared with your competitors? Are they growing faster than you? Why? Through a combination of desk/secondary and targetted detective-style telephone research, we can answer these questions.

Please contact Martin Holliss to find out more.