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Customer insights professionals who live and breathe market research recognize the value their work can bring to their organization’s marketing, product development, and overall customer experience. But unfortunately, research is chronically underused in most companies, and leaders often view the insights function as a cost center rather than a source of competitive advantage.

A study from the Boston Consulting Group found that companies factor customer insights into less than half of all business decisions. And when it comes to strategic planning, business leaders incorporate customer insights in only about one-third of all decisions. 

The same Boston Consulting Group study found that company CEOs consider unproven ROI a significant barrier to the advancement of the customer insights function. When organizations miss major opportunities to leverage insights across the business, their leaders are less likely to recognize a return on investment from their research projects, leaving the insights function vulnerable to budget cuts. 

If this situation sounds familiar to you, it’s time to change your company’s mindset. The shift from being perceived as a cost center to being perceived as a source of competitive advantage starts with getting insights in front of company decision-makers on a regular basis—and giving them the tools to use those insights. The first step is making sure that your internal stakeholders can access your research and insights on demand.  

Bring Research and Insights into One Searchable Place

In many organizations, research is spread out across a variety of places: research vendor portals, Google Drive folders, one-off emails with the latest research presentation deck. It can be challenging for internal stakeholders to know where to go to find the information they’re looking for, and in the case of some vendor portals, stakeholders may not even have direct access. 

If it’s hard work for your internal stakeholders to access your insights, they’re not going to use them when making business decisions.

Your research team needs to eliminate any friction associated with finding and using insights by bringing all research and insights into a searchable digital library. Stakeholders should be able to access this library from any location, any time they want– and they should be able to search and navigate the same way they would with Google or Amazon. This on-demand access will help keep your research top-of-mind and encourage stakeholders to back up their decisions with data.  

Give Stakeholders Greater Visibility into Your Insights Team’s Work

Once you’ve implemented a digital research library, it’s important to train stakeholders to turn to this platform when they’re looking for a specific study or an answer to a question about the customer. Consider hosting online training sessions or doing a roadshow to demonstrate the platform to other departments. If your research library has newsletter functionality, consider sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter with links to content in the library to highlight what your team has been working on. If stakeholders email you with a research question, direct them to the link in your research library where they can learn more. Make it second nature for stakeholders to visit your research library and tap into the work your team is doing.

You should also encourage stakeholders to ask questions and comment on research in your library. Allowing them to engage with your research—and maybe even spark ideas for future initiatives– will help stakeholders feel invested in your company’s insights function, which will encourage them to use insights in more of their decisions.

Increase the Value of Your Research

Increasing the visibility of your research through a searchable research library will increase its value in a few different ways:

  1. When research is centralized and searchable, both insights team members and stakeholders spend less time searching for existing research and more time acting on insights.
  2. Being able to find existing research on demand decreases the risk of commissioning duplicate research.
  3. When stakeholders can easily find research, they’re more likely to make it a habit to review existing research and insights before making business decisions.

And as the value of your research increases, your company leaders will shift from seeing the insights function as a cost center to recognizing it as a true source of competitive advantage.

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