‘Action doesn’t magically happen. You have to plan for it’

Derek Blair of Insights Matter talks about how quality research can result in real operational change in businesses

Derek Blair is president of Insights Matter.

Derek Blair
Derek Blair

Calgary’s Business: What is Insights Matter?

Blair: We are a consumer research and market insights company. We help companies and organizations that are looking to solve marketing-related challenges and questions like: “What do our consumers and clients want?” or “Why do they buy and how do they make decisions?” or “How can we maximize the success of our products and services?” or “How large is the market, what are the buying cycles, and who are the significant competitors?”

We answer these questions by talking directly to consumers, businesses,and subject matter experts through surveys, focus group and customer design sessions, and in-depth interviews.

In addition to this, we do full-scale economic analysis to help our clients really understand their markets.

CB: What makes you different compared with similar companies?

Blair: That’s a great question. A lot of companies do focus groups or surveys. How we go about it and how we look at action or using research is what makes us different. So I’d say there are two big differences.

The first one is that we believe the key to great research is designing great conversations that set research respondents and participants up for success when they’re trying to articulate what they want and don’t want, why they buy and why they leave.

The truth is that research often asks people questions about things they’re not used to thinking about. Humans often have a hard time articulating what they mean and we’re not great at predicting our own behaviour. We use techniques and approaches that set research participants up for success when we’re asking them questions in surveys, interviews and focus groups.

The second one is about action. ‘Action’ is one of those big words that every research company uses but are usually pretty vague about what they mean by it. We are very clear about what we mean by it. Action comes from three things: options, simplicity, and communication.

Great research produces options and possibilities that companies can discuss, debate and consider. Next, there is no bigger barrier to action that complexity, 100-page research reports, and long meetings that run overtime before you even hit the main conclusions. We get that. Finally, research is only actionable when it gets communicated and discussed in a planned and structured way.

We recognize these things because we’ve worked inside organizations and we’ve seen research work and really change companies.

Action doesn’t magically happen. You have to plan for it. That’s something we help our clients with.

CB: How do hunches play into what you do?

Blair: Great research starts with hunches.

The truth is when our clients engage us to help them with a marketing challenge or problem, improve client relationships or improve a product, they usually have a good idea about what’s causing the challenge and some of the things that might work to improve the situation.

In other words, our clients always have hunches. But although they have hunches, they’re not always good at getting together to discuss them, or at discussing them in a prepared way, or at staying on topic.

We always start our projects with a Hunch Discovery session that helps our clients table hunches, and we build these hunches into the research design.

Great research starts by leveraging the years and years of experience that exists inside companies and organizations. Then it tests those hunches and builds on them.

CB: Why is it important for companies to understand human behaviour?

Blair: Understanding human behaviour means trying to understand why people think, feel and act the way they do. It’s about having empathy. It’s important in our personal lives and in business. When you have empathy, you’re a better communicator, you have better conversations, you can anticipate how people around you might act or react, and you’re in a better position to influence them.

People who are great at understanding human behaviour are going to be great listeners as well, and being a great listener is a rare and amazing skill.

Great research helps businesses listen. It gives them empathy. And businesses can leverage that empathy to ensure they’re in tune with the needs of their markets and customers.

CB: So a company gets all the data from research. What should they then do with that data?

Blair: That’s the action part that I mentioned earlier. What should they do when they get the research? They should talk about it. But they should take that conversation seriously.

Get the stakeholders in the room. Ask them to come prepared. Respect their time. Plan the discussion. Stay focused.

One way to jumpstart your discussion about the research is to build it around four things:

  • What was the original aim of this research and why did we invest time, effort and resources in it?
  • What were the key discoveries and surprises? Even if it wasn’t in the research, is there anything that this has caused you to pause and think about?
  • What are all of the options, opportunities and possibilities that we can consider?
  • Of all of these options and possibilities, which ones will we test? What can we do in the short term? What are the things we need to revisit in the long term?

– Mario Toneguzzi

Respected business writer Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald in various capacities, including 12 years as a senior business writer.

insights matter research actionThe views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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