What IS “insights activation” and how is it executed?  We set out to answer this very timely question at the June RTi Client Symposium, which featured Tim Key of Cambiar Consulting and was attended by many of RTi’s corporate research clients.  What we learned is that creating a culture of insights activation in a corporate research environment is really about understanding the needs of the organization and having the leadership skills necessary to create a vision for delivering on those needs.

Regardless of company or industry affiliation, our symposium attendees agreed that management is not always clear in terms of their expectations for the role of the Consumer Insights group.  The Consumer Insights group may be told to “be a catalyst for change” or “provide the strategic voice of the organization.”  Although these sound like worthy goals, who knows what they really mean in terms of actual, concrete expectations?  The take-away message from the symposium is what we’ll call The Insights Activation Model – a process that can be used to understand an organization’s needs, create a vision for meeting those needs, get alignment, and execute successfully.

Step 1: Understand the TRUTH

  • Have conversations with upper management/internal clients about corporate strategy and priorities, and what is expected from the corporate research department in order to make THEIR vision a reality.
  • Assess whether senior management “believes in” research and determine where your department is situated in the corporate structure (who does the market research department report to).
  • Do a self-assessment: Where has your department been in the recent past, where you are now, and how well does your current department structure/function align with the overall company philosophy?

Step 2: Create a Vision

  • Take into account all that you learned in the TRUTH-finding phase, then create a strategic vision for your team’s future and a tactical research learning plan that aligns with that vision.

Step 3: Seek Out Champions by Establishing and Maintaining Relationships

  • Share your vision and plans with the appropriate senior management team members and get alignment.
  • Create opportunities for on-going dialog with internal clients – including involving them in the marketing research process (while, of course, maintaining leadership).
  • Socialize insights in advance, as this early engagement often does away with push-back.
  • Continually engage your team to ensure that their actions are reflective of the research department’s vision, and that they are also maintaining important relationships.

Step 4: Build On-Going Accountability

  • Build a mechanism for continual assessment of how well the marketing research department is delivering on your vision.
  • Do a retrospective examination of each research engagement to understand whether meaningful/actionable insights were generated, whether action was taken based on report recommendations, and whether it was successful.

Step 5: Empower Your Team

  • Recruit and keep the right talent – people who fit the corporate culture, are good communicators, and are comfortable being “influencers.”
  • Provide your people with on-going training in core competencies to ensure continued relevance.

At its core, insights activation is about LEADERSHIP.

~Lisa Cooper, SVP