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5 Ways Researchers Can Grab and Keep A “Seat at the Table”

Most insights professionals dread that phone call, that inevitably comes from upper management asking, “hey, can you pull this number for me?” What we really want is for them to get it. When I was on the client side, I often found it important to educate, delicately, that while my team was very good at pulling numbers, the real value came when we got the chance to represent the target consumer in any conversation. From developing product strategies and innovations, creating sales presentations, crafting marketing messages and beyond, having someone who spends most of their time getting to know your customers can be extremely valuable.

As an insights professional, you know this. And you know that the more you get invited in, the more value you will bring to the organization and ultimately, the more you will find the budget to back your research. It has a beautiful cyclical nature, once you finally get that invite.

Below are five of the best ways to prime the pump to get and KEEP your seat at the table where you belong.

1. Provide Unsolicited Insights

Senior managers are as fearful of making bad decisions as anyone else, but many shy away from research for fear of looking less confident in the way they address the decisions at hand. Key insights sent to management providing them with just the right insight they need to make their case gives them a boost without sacrificing their autonomy or independence. When the result is increased confidence – or better yet more successful decisions – they’re much more apt to proactively seek out your insights the next time around.

2. Invite Yourself

We’ve all been in meetings where someone suggests a follow-up – usually lateral but oftentimes vertical – to summarize status and discuss next steps. A simple “I’d like to join that meeting” will usually be met with acceptance and, more importantly, will provide a key opportunity for sharing insights that can support future decisions and evidence the power of research across multiple disciplines. Get bold, offer up an action item you can follow through on to add additional value they hadn’t considered.

3. Internal Blogs / Portals

One of the most effective first steps in growing respect for research is to establish internal libraries, blogs, and portals for sharing the results of past studies. These resource points can provide decision-makers with direct and immediate access to relevant insights, avoiding the extra steps of asking researchers to dig through past reports (obviously a benefit for you as well!). As use of the resources increases, postings of upcoming studies can be added, providing a means for feedback before results are in and also growing anticipation and engagement as a whole.

4. Suggest and Discuss Research in Off-Topic Meetings

Don’t be afraid to suggest and reference research in meetings where research is not the primary topic. Market feedback should never be limited to meetings where project results are the main agenda. The more the voice of the customer is referenced as a valued discipline, the more the culture will evolve in the direction of embracing insights as a core element of day-to-day operations.

5. Use ROI Scenarios in Internal Proposals

Research is too often dismissed on a cost – value basis, particularly in companies where management has yet to embrace customer insights in their decision-making. When proposing research to budget holders, focus on specific, ROI scenarios rather than simply relying on marketing speak around “strategic insights that bring us closer to our customer.” Research can and should provide a direct ROI in the form of product entry efficiencies, brand enlightenment, and long-term customer loyalty. Presenting these benefits in true dollar amounts will catch the attention of the non-believers.

Always remember that as researchers, we know and understand more about the company’s most valuable asset – the customer – than anyone else in the organization. Build, share, and leverage this knowledge whenever possible. You and your company will be better off for it.