A senior industry leader recently urged me to stop talking about research, and even suggested that I stop using the word “research” altogether. As you might imagine, this could be a bit tricky for the CEO of an organization called the Advertising Research Foundation. But upon reflection, the point really is that research is like television—it’s still relevant, but it’s being redefined.
Early in my career, “market research” was described as “the guys in the togas that come down from time to time with the tablets from on high.” The message was clear: a lack of speed from research to business decision-making revealed problems that the research industry is still challenged by today.
As the role of the researcher is being reinvented, our opportunities extend far beyond “research” to actionable insights and analytics designed to lead growth and drive change. Today, advertisers, publishers, networks and solutions providers are held to higher standards of accountability than ever, and the C-suite is willing to invest serious money to prove that their spending plans build brands and consumer loyalty.
In fact, $100 billion is expected to be invested in insights and analytics over the next three years.
We are no longer in a world where “if you build it they will come,” when product sales explode as soon as a new product hits the shelf. CEOs are desperate for actionable research that will help them reinvent their business, to make them relevant and to build market share in today’s consumer led world.
With that in mind, here are five tips on what researchers must do to help marketers drive growth and lead change:
1. Secure your seat at the table: Find out where you stand in your organization. Every week, a key research leader calls me and either says that he or she has lost their job or that they have a new boss and their role is up for grabs. Securing your seat at the table demands new skills, resilience, agility and the ability to lead growth and change by adapting your expertise and “toolkit,” which has been our backbone for years. And remember that timeliness is key. Focus on building capabilities that deliver keen insights in real time to expedite the decision making process.
2. Choose your partners -- not your projects: Insights and analytics leaders are uniquely positioned to evaluate, measure and experiment with new solution providers, publishers, networks and social media companies, but they shouldn’t count on their traditional “suppliers” to bring all the latest solutions. The best is often found outside the U.S. Mobile began in Scandinavia, and now it’s in the Far East. Co-create, complement and collaborate instead of buying and selling. Sit at the same side of the table with your vendors to drive mutual growth and lead change.
3. Quantify Results: What percent of brand growth is directly attributable to your initiatives? How well did your model predict sales, brand equity loyalty and growth? This takes time, but taking for granted that it is well understood and communicated to the C-suite can be perilous. Others will take credit, or place blame.
4. Innovate: What if you took your budget and distributed it across the fastest growing new solutions providers and publishers, or created a new fund for your traditional solutions provider to innovate and bring you new solutions? Rethink your resources or they will be lost.
5. Invest in the next generation: I’ve been struck by the brilliance, communication skills, enthusiasm, confidence and courage of the next generation. You should invest your time and budget to get them to the point where they can lead growth and change. Be sure to ask your C-suite to mentor your next generation, and they too will see that the future is bright.The research community needs to embrace the unique opportunity that is before us and we'll be covering some of these opportunities at next month's Audience Measurement Conference. We need to be not only the smartest people in the room, but the most influential.
Our time is now.