Almost every company does some kind of market research, which can range from the most basic email customer satisfaction survey to massive global studies with half million dollar price tags. But no matter the budget or the scope, the sad truth is that a large percentage of consumer and market research is vastly underutilized within most companies. I’ve heard more stories than I can tell—studies commissioned by one person that their successor never even glanced at, stacks of dusty research reports that no one has any idea what they contain, research conducted for a specific objective and the rest of the learning ignored. You get the idea.
The fact is that the majority of companies have an untapped asset in their already conducted or purchased consumer and market research studies. There may be missing links between qualitative, quantitative and syndicated research. There may be a lot of great consumer research data, but it hasn’t been adequately translated to conclusions and recommendations for the business. There may be research in one part of the organization with broader application that no one else even knows exists. And sometimes organizations just don’t know what they don’t know. Whatever the specific situation, there is something that can help—an insight audit.
An insight audit involves reviewing existing consumer research learning for a few different objectives: 1) to glean new insights for a new project or objective from existing data, especially across multiple sources 2) to translate data into action by connecting the dots to develop actionable conclusions and recommendations for the business, and 3) to shape future research efforts by identifying what’s already known and where the gaps in knowledge are to develop a new learning plan.
One example from personal experience involves consumer targeting for a personal care category. In a nutshell, the brand desperately needed to update their consumer targeting strategy, but didn’t have the time or funds to commission a new, dedicated segmentation study. They did, however, have access to some relevant existing research, including: an outdated category-specific quantitative study, a recent cross-category quantitative study (not specific to this market segment), point-of-sale/market data, and some relevant qualitative research. Via extensive mining of those sources, including quantitative analysis and qualitative insights, as well as understanding the current market structure (e.g. versioning and competitive product offerings), several robust “prime prospect” consumer groups were identified which filled the immediate business need.
In another situation, a pet care company wanted to test concepts for a brand restage and instead of doing new qualitative research, they were able to hire an external consultant to mine their existing qualitative research as well as seeking out key trends and consumer language from secondary/unstructured data found online. In this case, the addition of online unstructured data (from blogs, forums, product reviews, etc.) helped identify new areas of consumer frustration and unmet needs in the category. With this more cost and time effective option, they developed several compelling positioning concepts for their restage that really resonated with consumers and it turns out that one of the new concepts developed by the consultant, based on the insights found in the research as well as market trends, was the winning idea.
Much like a financial audit, often the best person to conduct an insight audit is external to the organization. He or she should have deep expertise in a full range of consumer research techniques, the ability to synthesize large amounts of information into clear, concise and actionable insights, and extensive client-side experience for the application of those insights to the business.
In one last example, a company was struggling with a major strategic decision and they had reams of consumer studies, but were unable to reconcile all disparate pieces of data and really come to a clear conclusion. A consultant was able to pull out several key findings from the reports they already had, including 100+ slide brand equity studies, and combine those with actual in-market results to paint a clear and cohesive picture of the market reality and therefore, this company’s opportunity space, allowing them to choose the path forward with confidence. Sometimes it really is difficult to see the forest for the trees!
To sum up, the key benefits of an insight audit are: as a way to establish what is already known and where there are gaps in knowledge/where new research is needed; as a cost-effective way to gather baseline knowledge and relevant insights for a new project; and finally, as a way to extract the full benefit of every piece of research, and across studies, by translating the data into actionable conclusions and recommendations for the business. Not only will an insight audit maximize the value of a company’s existing research investment, but it will also result in future research cost savings, which can easily cover the cost of the audit itself.
Sarah Faulkner, Principal, Faulkner Strategic Consulting