Market researchers can learn a lot from teachers. The best data in the world won’t solve or enhance anything if it isn’t understood and used. So, like a teacher, your job is to bring your “students” (clients) to a full understanding of your research results.
You may already be doing many of the things great teachers do.
• Do you always have clear objectives for your research?
• Do you spend a lot of time designing content so that it will be understandable?
• Do you put great effort into making sure that your clients will retain key pieces of information?
• Do you strive to be engaging when presenting research?
Your answer to all of the above was “Absolutely,” right? Great teachers would say the same if we substituted “lessons” and “students” for “research” and “clients.” Take the first question above, for example; great teachers have clear learning objectives for their lessons, just as you have clear objectives for what any given research project needs to accomplish.
So now, let’s do a little exercise.
Step 1: If you were a school teacher, how might you address these challenges?
1. My students are having trouble staying focused in class.
2. My students aren’t reading the textbook carefully.
3. My students are having trouble applying the lesson content.
Write down a possible solution for each of the above before proceeding. Seriously. Trust me. Give yourself at least five minutes for this task.
Step 2: Can you apply those solutions to your market research clients?
Now let’s apply this to market research. Take the solutions you identified above and see if they apply to each of the following:
4. My clients are having trouble staying focused during presentations.
5. My clients aren’t reading the research report carefully.
6. My clients are having trouble applying the research results.
Did the solution you came up with for 1 apply to 4? 2 to 5? And 3 to 6?
For Item 1, one solution might be, “Make classes more engaging by having questions prepared to ask the students after each major point.” In a market research context, this could translate as, “Make presentations less boring by asking the audience for their opinions after every 3-5 slides.”
For example, after a section presenting brand awareness results, stop and ask, “Did you find this surprising? Why or why not?” Once the audience gets trained to expect that you will be asking questions, they will pay more attention. They’ll be engaged. And they’ll enjoy hearing what their peers have to say.
Or maybe, for Item 2, one solution could be, “After each textbook chapter, point the students to relevant video content that would repeat or illustrate key content.” Then for Item 5, the research version could be, “Embed links to videos, focus group montages or executive interviews such that after every report subsection, some interactive content is easily accessible.”
Are we delivering research or teaching insights?Yes, I know. You’re not in front of a classroom full of hormone-challenged young adults. You’re addressing professionals who are paid to be thoughtful. But we’re all human. We all need to be engaged before we’ll set down whatever personal baggage we’re carrying into the classroom – or the conference room – and really learn something. The most meticulously-gathered data will flutter to the ground like dead leaves if it isn’t understood and retained.
So consider how great teachers do what they do – and be inspired. Even just taking a little time to think of yourself as a teacher, in addition to being a researcher, may lead to subtle changes that will help your students – I mean, clients – have greater comprehension and retention.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below. If I get enough responses, I will write a follow-up.