Measuring the success of anything in market research can be tricky: the success of a project, the success of a particular decision within the research process, the success of a task, and but in particular, the success of the insights the insight team generate on a daily basis.
There are insight teams across the world trying hard to work out how to measure this success as we speak in order to correct strategic directions, prove the use of research tools, and justify future research projects all at the very least. But there are challenges we encounter on the way that makes it hard to know where to start.
Challenges in Measuring Success
Rachel Binks, a Senior Manager on the Consumer Insight and Experience team at Cancer Research, is particularly invested in finding a way to effectively measure the success of insights activation. In Rachel’s experience, there are a number of challenges insight teams encounter on their quest for accurate success measurement:
- The “length of time between producing insights and the results being implemented (especially for large strategic projects)” can be a significant challenge. The longer the time it takes for insights to be implemented: the harder it can be to pinpoint significant value derived from the insights once activated; the less relevance the insights might have (the half-life of insight is time-sensitive); and the higher the chance the value can get lost in the pipeline or unreported as insight professionals and stakeholders move onto other projects.
- “Often not having a ‘control study’ — stakeholders take the route or make the decision suggested by the insights generated, but often are not able to measure and compare this with what the results would have been if we had not taken the insight on board.” This controlled study could be incredibly useful as a benchmark for value tracking, but this isn’t always possible.
- “Being able to disaggregate the effect of insight — how can we know what proportion of the success of a decision the insight is responsible for, and which would have happened anyway.” Related to the control study challenge, even if we can prove the insights generated positively influenced the outcome of the decision made, how much influence did they have?
- There is a “difficulty quantifying the time that goes into a project — the calculations for measuring the success of insights need to take in both this measure of time and the cost element, not just the cost.” The time element is something not typically accounted for, but the time it takes for the insights to form determines their value just as much as the cost it took to generate them.
Rachel agrees that measuring the impact of insights and its use by wider teams is important, and explains that “insight is a cost-centre to an organisation, and therefore it is important to demonstrate the value it brings to cement their worth in key decisions. By doing this, we can make effective business cases for increased resource and make the case for having insight considered throughout the organisation.”
As of yet, there is no one right way of measuring the success of insights activation that works for everyone, to help prove all of this and more, but there might be a few ways to help cover all the bases.
Return on Investment (ROI) is one of the most common sources of measuring “success”. ROI is about gauging the overall profitability of a project, decision, action, and investment. While profitability isn’t the only defining measure of success, it’s worth noting as a particularly effective method even if only because it’s one of the main sources stakeholders pay attention to; so, it’s also worth getting right and throwing it into the mix.
This quantitative-based method is calculated by taking the initial value of the investment, subtracting it from the final value, dividing it over the overall cost of the investment, and then multiplying it by 100. This can be done for the overall research project if a quick indicator is needed, but taking the more specific factors that make up the research project will lead to a more detailed breakdown of what was successful and what wasn’t.
However, this method isn’t as easy for market research as it is for other departments or industries. The final value of the investment could take months or years to truly understand how the insights have been used, what impact that one change and decision has made within the company. The insights generated could impact many different departments within an organisation, many different decisions and ignite many different actions that can be incredibly hard to keep track of. In a way, the fact the insights were used to this extent could be proof of the success of insights activation, but not particularly quantifiable in terms of ROI. This is why ROI should be used in amongst other, more immediate and less quantifiable ways of proving the success of the research.
Project Case Studies
In terms of the best way to keep track of successful research projects and insight activation, case studies are a great tool for insight teams internally, but also to help communicate the success of research projects externally.
This is another, verbal way of measuring the cost of investment vs the value derived from the actions taken thereafter. Each case study is a case of verbal reasoning typically justifying the need for research in the first place, the methods and tools selected, the task(s) and strategy that was implemented, the sample used, and more.
Case studies aren’t a specific unit of measurement, but in general terms, the more successful case studies you have under your belt, the more successful the insight and insight activation techniques would seem to be. These documents chronicle the success of external insight-based decisions, actions and projects in a qualitative manner, and can also act as an educational tool for stakeholders to learn from in the future.
The Relationships Formed
While most stakeholders and insight professionals might focus on the quantifiable data, this is just as important (if not more so) than that numerical and documented data.
The relationship insight professionals build with stakeholders is crucial to the success of a research project, the quality of the data and insights produced, and the seriousness that these insights are taken by stakeholders and actioned at the end of the day. This aspect comes down to one key question: how many people come back to you?
How many people come back for projects, for advice, to test the waters for another project, or simply to chat through their work to see if you have any insights ready without any further research? The more stakeholders come back to insight teams for any of the criteria stated above and more the better the relationship is, and the more successful your insight activation will be.
Of course, these are just three ways out of many that are being tried and tested across industries by insight teams, and each organisation will require a slightly different combination in order to keep a track of its success rate. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to measuring the success of insight activation.
This article was originally published on the FlexMR Insights Blog and can be accessed here.