The ROI Triangle:

What Happens AFTER the Market Research Report Lands in the Inbox

What is The ROI Triangle?

If you’re from the client-side and a user of market research insights, you know that finding a new insight through a research project is only step 1.  The path from new insight to in-market execution can take many forms. Particularly depending on the type of organization you work in or the complexity of the research project.

All too often (at least in my CPG experience), new insights can get lost in the abyss of Corporate America. The research doesn’t live up to its fullest potential and the ROI is never achieved.

If you’re from the supplier-side, you may have no idea what happens to your results after you deliver the report.  And you might think that finding new insights is enough to deliver an ROI.

But, delivering an ROI for a research project actually requires three more things to happen after the report is delivered/received.  Client stakeholders must:

  • - UNDERSTAND the insights
  • - ACCEPT the insights
  • - USE the insights to drive action

At Crow & Pitcher, we call this….The ROI Triangle.  Like the Bermuda Triangle, insights can get lost in a company, never to be seen (or used) again.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen this countless times in my career.  It’s not a great situation for anyone. 

There are many reasons why this happens. It can be hard for people to accept new insights that push against accepted beliefs (we are only human after all). Now imagine a complex matrix organization where the people closest to the research have to convince many other people, each with different existing biases. And limited time. Have you heard questions like this before? They all get in the way of completing The ROI Triangle.

  • Can we trust this methodology?
  • What was the sample size?
  • Did we recruit the right participants?
  • Why should we trust just one (new) data point compared to years of past data?

That last one is my personal favorite. Usually, it's the memory of past data that's contradicted, not the actual data itself.

But, there’s good news.  Whether you are a market research supplier or working on the client-side, you can help complete The ROI Triangle. Being aware of the barriers to understand, accept and use new data allows you to position new insights for success.  Let’s dig deeper….

old style map of the Bermuda Triangle, with Bermuda crossed out and replaced with ROI

Understanding The ROI Triangle

The basic premise of understanding (and completing) The ROI Triangle is to deeply understand the client organization.  This is an opportunity to think as much about that organization and how they take in information as the data analysis itself.

Several factors impact the complexity of The ROI Triangle for any given project.  For instance:

1 Client organization complexity and maturity

  • Is it a small organization with streamlined decision-making processes?
  • Is it a matrix organization with multiple stakeholders for each decision?  I.e. how many people have to understand and accept the results?
  • Does the organization have a history of completing research projects?  And frequently incorporate research into their decision-making process?
  • Are they disciplined enough to stay in scope of the project objectives?

2 Research project scope and complexity

  • Is the methodology familiar to the organization?  Or will stakeholders need education to understand and accept the results?
  • Is this the only study the client is doing this year, so they want to stuff every question they’ve got into the questionnaire?
  • Is this particular project scope and recruit straightforward or complex?

3 Presentation of the information to the client

  • Do you know who the stakeholders and decision-makers are?
  • Do you know what the stakeholders are expecting?  Is your data aligned or contradicting what they expect?
  • Do you know how the clients best take in information and are you framing the info in that way?

In some cases, completing The ROI Triangle is straightforward and a typical approach to report writing and distribution will work just fine.  But the more complex the organization and the specific research project are, the more effort is needed to plan for the report out.

Find out how complicated your situation is...

Refresh the page if you'd like to retake the quiz

How did your project score?

(Results from quiz will match one of the options below)

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Smooth Sailing

Least complex.

A little bit of thought about what stakeholders are expecting vs what you're presenting should go a long way to delivering ROI on this project.

Sepia image with map and two compasses

Get out the Maps

Moderate complexity.

Identify the most complex areas and spend your effort understanding and planning for those in your report and distribution.

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Call in Reinforcements

Most complex.

This project calls for the most effort to plan the report. Call on the client lead to help identify and understand stakeholders. Crow & Pitcher can help too.

Things to Keep in Mind (Quiz Questions)

  • How complex is the client organization?
  • Is the output from the research confirming or refuting the stakeholder's hypothesis?
  • How familiar is the organization with using market research?
  • How familiar is the client with the research methodology?
  • How accepting are the clients of new insights?

Summing It Up 

Finding the insights is only half the battle.  3 more steps must occur for an insight to deliver an ROI: insights must be understood, accepted, and used by many stakeholders. 

Brand owners and innovators, spend time tightening up your story so it’s easier for stakeholders who aren’t close to the research to quickly understand and accept the insights.  And help your market research suppliers understand your stakeholders.

Market researchers, help your clients complete The ROI Triangle by taking the time to understand the complexity of their organization and the stakeholders they need to influence.  Use that information to structure your reports in service of influencing the audience. Get our suggestions how by signing up here.

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You Might Also Like

  • A Tale of Two Studies.... Read about two real-life examples of complex research projects. One where the insights changed the course of an advertising campaign. And one where the insights got lost in The ROI Triangle forever. Read more here.
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About the Author

Melissa Jacobs is the founder of Crow and Pitcher LLC, a Brand Strategy and Innovation Consulting firm. She reduces swirl at the intersection of Marketing Strategy and Insights to accelerate growth for her clients, including innovative brands, products, and market researchers.

She draws on her experience in both client-side marketing and engineering/research roles to "speak the language" of many, build Strategically Sound, customer-focused growth plans, and get innovation to market faster.

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