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Market researchers must learn to communicate

For the past two weeks, I’ve been talking about ways market researchers could change their mindset. Thinking like a marketer and understanding the client’s business are both important front-end issues.  Today, I’m going to fast-forward to the end of a project to talk about the third way market researchers can make themselves more relevant.

Marketers, how often have you received a PowerPoint file with hundreds of slides, all completely overloaded with dense charts and difficult to interpret bullet points?

Researchers, how often have you been guilty of producing such a PowerPoint file?

From what I’ve seen, the answer to both questions is far too often.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how good your research was, if you fail to effectively communicate the results.

Market researchers tend to be detail-oriented people.  They revel in the complexity of the data and truly believe that every nugget they find is equally valuable.  The problem is that every nugget isn’t equally valuable.  By giving equal emphasis to everything, you ultimately fail to emphasize anything.

From the reader’s perspective, trying to digest a report like that is like being in a crowded room where everyone is speaking to them simultaneously at equal volume.  The resulting din makes it impossible to understand anything the crowd says.

Tell a story.

The mindset market researchers should adopt is that of a storyteller.  Bring life to your data by putting it in a context and explaining its significance. Yes, this is a lot more work than simply dumping the data from all the questions into charts, but it’s also a lot more useful.

Jeffery Henning of Vovici offers one very good way to structure a research report more effectively using an inverted pyramid approach. There are many other resources that can help you learn how to craft a story from your data.

Here is one approach to finding and telling the story in the data.

Open the story with the one big take away. You need to distill all of the research findings into one sentence that encapsulates them. This sentence is your headline.  Most people will listen to the headline and decide within seconds if they should pay attention to the rest of your presentation.  What will you say to capture their attention?

Identify the three to five main ideas that support your big take away. If you find you have more than that, you’re probably getting too deep into the details and should spend more time refining your main supporting ideas. The goal is to be able to summarize the entire research project in four to six sentences –  your headline plus the three to five main ideas.

Use relevant details from the research data to support your main ideas. Notice I said relevant details. This means — and no doubt some will call to have me burned as a heretic for this — that you might not include all of the questions from your survey in your final report. I’m not suggesting that you selectively omit data to manipulate the story to your purposes.  I’m suggesting that you need to edit if you want to craft a story that is engaging and actionable. You should have detailed tabulations of the data as a backup.  Remember, we’re talking about effectively communicating the results, and I don’t know anyone who thinks a 3-inch thick stack of tabs effectively communicates anything.

This wraps up my series on ways to become more relevant.  I hope you’ve found an idea or two that you can put into practice to increase your value to your clients and colleagues.  Up next, I’m going to take a look at one of the other big issues in research today – how (or if) to include social media in the research mix.  Don’t miss it, subscribe to Random Sampling via RSS now.

About the Author

Ed Erickson is the President of Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm. You can find Ed on LinkedIn and .


  1. Pingback: 3 Things you can do today to be more relevant | Random Sampling

  2. Pingback: Market Researchers need to understand the client's business | Random Sampling

  3. Well, from my experience, marketers pay or outrank the researchers and demand excatly those oveloaded powerpoints. And they can’t be persuaded to change their mind.

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