If a Tree Falls in the Forest, Did Anyone Hear It?
You Cannot Drive Change, If Your Insights Aren't Heard
by Bonnie Janzen
Consider, if you will, the age-old question of “If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no human or animal to hear it, did it make a sound?”
Well, technically, the vibrations were created, but without humans or animals to sense them, were those vibrations actually sounds? It comes down to how you define “sound.” The vibrations are created, but it’s about our experience and the registration of those sounds in our brains. As Galileo Galilei described it, “Tastes, odors, colors, and so on…reside only in consciousness. If the living creature were removed, all these qualities would be wiped away and annihilated.”
So, in a similar fashion, if the optimal consumer insight research is budgeted, approved, designed, and conducted to solve a business problem but there were no decisions made, and no action taken, what did it accomplish? Why should it exist?
If you conduct the research; outline the decision criteria based on the learnings; approve the budgets for the business and move forward to estimate the year-one volumes of products to be sold online and in-store; create packaging, advertising, and go to market; then you are “on a path.” There is a good chance for “success.” You would be in the market, with strategies based on strong consumer knowledge. There would be ongoing monitoring of how the product is being used and finding ways to enhance the customer experience even beyond what is initially planned. There would be ongoing monitoring of pricing relative to competitive or similar products, as well as watching the product’s sales at various retailers. Adjustments would be made to all these components, including marketing, advertising, messaging, pricing, promotion, and distribution.
We have found that research leads to decisions and then to actions more often when we have alignment working sessions upfront and sessions on the back end. We frequently utilize our StrategicImpact™ Process to help our clients fully engage with the research and make it as successful as possible.
One way to ensure decisions and actions following your strategic research is to work on alignment upfront. In our years of experience with these types of research, this is best accomplished with what the sports world refers to as a “detailed game plan.” We need to have a cross-functional set of all the key stakeholders in the business represented (including outside partners/agencies). Additionally, we need to have all the ideas, inputs, and concerns discussed and addressed before the research begins. Thus, it is possible to ensure we have a “game plan” that will include all the key stakeholders and address the key areas of concern. That may sound very elementary, but in the hustle and bustle of fast-moving Corporate America, we find that sometimes this step is skipped because there is a feeling that “we don’t have the time.” The team generally lives to regret the decision.
Once all components are together, there are proven techniques and ways to get the most out of the alignment sessions which, we have found, will maximize the time together and help draw out the key concerns, even among those who might be less willing to discuss them in larger group settings. Once these sessions are wrapped up, we work with the key marketing or consumer insights teams to build the research plan (or tweak it).
After the research is completed (along with all the appropriate check-in meetings with the client), there are collaborative working sessions to assemble the final presentation. That presentation is given to the larger team and discussed again among that same large multi-functional group. This is what we call the “activation session.” We go through the research key elements, of course. But it is really about building those initial steps of the roadmap for what the business will do in terms of targeting, messaging, advertising, new product development, promotional activities, acquisitions, licensing, distribution, retail channel strategies, pricing strategies, customer experience, etc. This is typically a one- or two-day working session that will not answer all the business questions, but will be the beginning of the journey on that roadmap. It is also important to note that these sessions typically include video of the key consumer groups talking about the brands and products they use, which helps communicate the emotional and rational components of the decision-making process. This was discussed in Rational vs. Emotional by Jerry W. Thomas.
The next goal is to set in place the key success criteria for this business initiative and how you intend to measure success. It is also important to set up the cadence of those measurements and general methods. Then, you can immediately set up check-in meetings quarterly or as the appropriate timing dictates. This allows you not only to put the plan of action in place, but also measure your success against that goal over time.
So if a tree falls in the forest, and if you align, activate, and monitor your research results following key strategic research projects, you will not only be there to hear the sounds, but will also help your organization make decisions and take actions.
What are some of your hints and tips for helping make research more actionable?
About the Author
Bonnie Janzen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Executive Vice President at Decision Analyst. You may contact her at either 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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