In a study of corporate decision makers, CEB Market Insights found that, while 95% of executives want customer data taken into account more fully when making business decisions, only 40% have the wherewithal to do so. Indeed, Market Insights (MI) ranks seventh among all possible sources of customer information – behind direct customer conversations and informal colleague chats but comes ahead (at least) of “friends and family.”
The problem is that business executives prioritize timeliness over thoroughness: market research that is produced within a week or less is much more likely to be used in the decision-making process than a lovingly crafted and insightful piece that takes longer. CEB Market Insights research also shows that, on average, MI’s most valuable insights yield only 37% of their potential benefit.
While MI professionals try to consult business partners on their thorniest and most pressing questions, there are two dynamics that make delivering insights and recommendations harder than they previously were:
Most customer-related decision making happens on short notice and outside the “tables” at which MI professionals might have a seat.
Greater consensus is now required to take action on MI’s biggest insights. This creates a powerful bias to inaction.
Two Steps to Solve the Problem
To tackle these problems head on Market Insights should:
Provide more synthesis of foundational knowledge to inform everyday decision making: Although decision-makers value highly the inclusion of diverse sources, the majority of them are unskilled at interpreting data correctly. In an experiment CEB Market Insights conducted, respondents struggled to arrive at the correct response to a business problem when faced with multiple information sources that did not all point in the same direction.
And this is where MI’s expertise comes into play: MI professionals can greatly improve the quality of business decisions by helping to synthesize diverse sources, by acting as a central provider of customer information, and by using this synthesis to provide the narrative business partners need. In particular, MI professionals should prompt experts in different parts of the organization to actively embrace and use each other’s data; seek to make collaboration easier among different information providers in the organization; and increase the productivity of the information synthesis process.
Improve its political savvy: Business partners naturally consider personal risk as well as any business risk when making important decisions, and particularly when advocating for change. Layer on top of that the fact that more organizational environments foster consensus decision making, and it’s more important than ever that MI adopts a politically savvy and activist posture to ensure that insights are acted upon.
The most successful MI teams do three things: they anticipate and plan around typical organizational responses – such as “we haven’t got the resources to take advantage of that”; they require an “activist” approach from all team members to promoting the value of MI and the disruptive insights it can produce; and they allocate their resources to providing disruptive insights for those business partners that ask for them, not try to re-scope business partners’ requests into something more valuable (even if they’re more senior or more desperate than those asking for truly disruptive insights).
CEB Market Insights members should visit the resource center on the dedicated website to learn how the function can activate more insights by being more politically savvy. Non members can learn more about the evolving role of the market insights professional and how to take more of an activist role in helping business partners respond to disruptive insights.