Could this be why suppliers aren’t generating better insights?

Clients and suppliers both share plenty of woes when it comes to market research. Both are trying to do more with less – less money and time, to be exact. Both are faced with increasing demands, too – more insights, better insights, more actionable insights, better stories. I’ve read plenty of articles talking about how to get better insights; how to craft the story; what to automate to save time and money. But has anyone stepped back a moment and looked at why it’s so difficult to achieve better insights with fewer resources?

When doing more with less actually means getting less

In this day and age, the general feeling is that deadlines are getting pushed up, budgets are getting pushed down, and both clients and suppliers are being asked to continually deliver either as much as they did before, or else deliver more than before. And, if the blog posts I’ve seen this past year are any indication, neither clients nor suppliers are terribly happy with the results from all of this. I’ve been trying to understand what’s going on – what’s causing this continual refrain?

Recently, I was working on a project for a client that had a tight timeline: only a few days from the time the data came in to when the report was due. To call it a tight timeline is perhaps a miscategorization: it was a typical timeline.

However, as I was going through the report and looking at the 150+ data tables, I was struck with an epiphany of sorts: were we really, truly consolidating all of the data from these 150+ tables to 12 slides?

I could understand if those 12 slides were each exceptionally insightful slides. But can we step back a moment? Who really gets knock-your-socks-off insights from 150+ tables and can put that into a tidy report in just a few days?

And suddenly, I was struck by another epiphany: the refrain I’ve seen in many articles from clients is that suppliers aren’t providing enough insights.

How can they, when they’re looking at hundreds of data tables (which often have data split by various audiences within each table) and trying to put together a report about the data in a matter of a few days?

Granted, there can be some good insights drawn if those data tables are reviewed with specific questions in mind. But something about that makes me feel like it’s like finding just what you want to find with a quick search on Wikipedia when you could probably get a deeper understanding if you read a few books on the subject.

And if we want to be even more realistic, that few days turnaround from the time the data is gathered to the time the report is delivered includes time spent on the part of the supplier doing a quality check on the data, which draws away from the ability to spend more time digging into the data itself to really find those gems of insights.

After this torrent of thoughts, I then had yet another epiphany: of the handful of data tables actually being used to populate a report for the client, who was actually going to take the time to review the rest of the data? If nobody was going to take that time to review the rest of the data, when why ask for it all in the first place? Why send audiences through 20-minute surveys to only walk away with a handful of data points and a very large data file that is going to be virtually gathering dust in someone’s file folder on their computer?

In the end, sure, the client has tightened the timeline and saved money, but I don’t think either supplier or client ends up satisfied with the results. It’s not like suppliers don’t want to dive into the data; market researchers are curious people by nature. I think it’s more the fact that, even if all of the data outputs are automated, there isn’t enough time for suppliers to dive into the data any more than absolutely necessary for the purposes of populating an often predefined report.

The answer to the issue of insights

With all of that, perhaps the answer to the issue of clients wanting more insights from their market research suppliers encompasses a few things that need to be addressed from both clients and suppliers. First, let’s go back to the basics of research, and create studies with a simple, clear purpose for each study. Let’s be sure that each question is generating information that will actually be used. Then, let’s allow for enough time on the part of the supplier to actually go through the data and delve into it, slicing and dicing, poking and prodding to get the insights and answers to the business questions the clients have.

Then, watch the insights flow!

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