Many of us have sat through the meeting where findings from a recent quantitative market research study are reported. At some point, you find yourself thinking, these are great insights but what are we going to do to change?
My colleague Roz recently wrote a blog post about how important it is to use research to get to the “why”. That got me thinking about a problem I often run into when conducting quantitative market research:
How do I get someone to act differently based on the insights from the research?
In my mind, two key factors dictate the level of impact market research has in an organization:
Relevance measures whether the topic being analyzed is important to the organization and the situation we are in. This factor is easiest to address, but surprisingly, many companies do not spend enough planning time up front. From the start, we have to ensure the research is relevant to key stakeholders. Often in medical device organizations, the key stakeholder is the commercial organization. The insights derived from the research can help you adjust your strategy or your execution tactics. To provide the commercial organization the best results, ask the question up front of “what decision or strategic question are we trying to inform?”
The nemesis of relevance is complacency. I’ve worked with too many teams that were told once to run an attitudinal tracking study and then continuously repeat it each month, quarter, year without thinking about how it should change as the organization and market change. While you can still obtain good insights through consistency, it is more important that the results are relevant to the current organizational situation.
Make sure your organization’s research is relevant by:
- Basing the study on the current decisions or strategic questions—if you are losing share, study why it is happening; if a competitor implemented a new strategy, understand the impact on perceptions of HCPs.
- For example, when working with a company in the medical device space, we cut the data of one of our repeating quantitative studies in a number of ways and found that perceptions of the manufacturer’s disease area expertise seemed to drive much better perceptions and even higher usage. The company does a lot for the market in the area of disease management, but nobody really talks about it. We needed to understand what disease area expertise means to the healthcare provider and why. In the next quantitative studies, and even some other qualitative ones, we went deeper into what disease area expertise means to the provider—we made significant changes to the existing studies to ensure relevance to the current question at hand.
- Defining the quantitative study to understand the needs of your customers—if you just ask about your own and competitors’ products, you won’t really learn what is truly driving behavior. We need to link questions to customer needs and decision-making processes.
- One way I have achieved this is to have the provider define in the quantitative study how employees think and how they make decisions, either through free text or by giving them a progression of related questions about how products are prescribed or recommended.
Like a fine wine, we need to let good market research breathe. When it is hot off the presses, we are tempted to push research to everyone and make sure it is visible to the organization. That is fine, but it isn’t through that initial readout that we see the greatest value. It’s when key stakeholders take the findings back to their teams, talk them through, think about them and work to create a plan of action that we really create value. The challenge is that the audience (the commercial organization) is very busy and this research is priority No. 23 on their list of things to do. So what can we do to make the research live beyond the initial readout?
1) Be persistent and visible: They say you have to repeat things many times for them to sink in. Find ways to repeat the key findings; determine how the findings really impact the work that is happening by the team; link the research findings to other existing work and the impact it has.
2) Define a plan: This is probably the No. 1 reason quantitative research ends up on the shelf: No plan is defined to do something different afterward based on the insights. Don’t just bring insights, bring actions. Anyone involved (the research team, stakeholders, leadership, etc.) can build the plan. Start with a draft that you bring to the right audience, adjust the plan based on their feedback and, most important, get involved in helping them implement or at least monitor the steps in the plan.
Now the above concepts are written from the perspective of the team that is conducting the market research. But this is just as important for those of us who are the stakeholders who can use the research. We, the key stakeholders, should demand this level of service from our research partners. At my company, we do a health check each year to understand the perceptions of myself and my colleagues on various facets of our business and culture. The first question out of our mouths when we see the results is, “What are we going to do different?” The people in my company who run the study are prepared for this reaction. They provide the results to start with, but then set up committees who build plans to make improvements. It’s my responsibility, as someone impacted by the results, to find a way to participate and help make a difference, just as it is your responsibility to figure out how to leverage the data in your sales force effectiveness, voice of the customer, buying process or other market research to determine how to improve your organization’s commercial capabilities.
We spend a lot of money each year on market research, but unfortunately much is wasted and becomes “shelf” reports. Let’s actively make an attempt to get the full value out of the research we are commissioning!