Ideas and insights to take your marketing to the highest level

April 29, 2015
Andy Jolls

Why Storytelling Is the Key to Your Research Findings

Whether it’s market research firms presenting their findings or their clients determining how to put research insights into action, some of the most significant challenges begin with implementation.

Research teams have to create the context for the successful internalization and understanding of market research results, and doing so successfully begins with strategizing how to get marketing teams interested and engaged in the findings. Here are five tips on how to get it done.

1. Revisit the “why.” Simon Sinek, an ethnographer and adjunct staff member at Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank Rand Corp., gave a wildly popular TED talk and subsequently wrote a best-selling book, Start With Why, on this topic. The premise of the book is that successful business leaders motivate themselves by understanding why what they do is important, and use the same approach to catalyze their teams.

Why does this research matter? What problem is it solving—not just in the company, but in a bigger, market-driven way? How will the information garnered from the market research help overcome these challenges?

2. Leverage the power of storytelling. Storytelling has the power to capture an audience’s attention and engage them deeply. Perhaps it’s just how our brains work, or maybe it’s part of our DNA, but stories are much more likely than standard presentations to pique people’s interest.

For example, with a customer segmentation, rather than presenting your average customer as a 30-something, budget-conscious woman from the Midwest, you could personalize the information by developing a customer avatar. Instead of this generic “customer,” you discuss Joan, a suburban mom of two who works part time, and is deeply concerned about her family’s grocery bill and health options. That personalization makes it easier to envision how the results of the survey matter and how businesses can implement market research insights in a way that helps them better serve customers.

3. Diversify your presentation media. Consider diversifying the formats in which you share your results. For example, a written report and access to raw statistical data may help specific groups do their jobs. For others, a report that highlights the big takeaways and that has a multimedia component showing media-rich data collected by respondents, or audio tracks of interviews to underscore key points, could help capture the attention of others in your audience.

From written interpretations of survey data to graphs and more creative presentation formats, it’s important to develop a strategic sense of the right mix to appeal to different learning styles.

4. Think like a data storyteller. Today, with the proliferation of visual media such as infographics and social media updates, data storytellers have coveted skillsets. Professional data storytellers interpret complex data and have an eye for the visual. They select the most compelling pieces of data, construct an argument that uses stories and facts selectively, and then help the audience draw the right conclusions. Apply the same framework when thinking about how you present your results to make the most compelling and interesting case possible.

5. Crowdsource your implementation strategy. One way to increase interest and engagement in research findings is to crowdsource strategies for implementation. Consider facilitating discussion groups, Wikis, breakout sessions or other methods that work for the end client. Engage a broader audience to brainstorm ways in which the data can be used to improve the company’s performance, from developing new products to revamping the customer service model.

While not every idea will be usable, there are often surprising insights that can vastly increase the value of the data that you’ve collected—while helping diverse teams feel more connected and more engaged in market researchers’ work.


Andy Jolls is CMO of Encino, Calif.-based insights platform Instantly Inc. 

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