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How to react when your research results are ignored

Article ID:
20130726-1
Published:
July 2013
Author:
Edward Appleton

Article Abstract

Five ways researchers can take action when their advice and expertise are ignored.

Editor's note: Edward Appleton is a client-side European consumer insights manager. He can be reached at eappleton90@googlemail.com. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's alone and do not reflect the views of his employer. This article appeared in the July 22, 2013, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.   

 

I wonder how many of us have experienced this: You execute a great market research project, present the results, use multiple data sources, come to a recommendation and state indicated actions only to have your advice completely ignored.

 

I'd guess it must have happened to every single one of us over the course of our careers. Having our recommendations overruled or ignored is extremely frustrating and one of the most important issues for client-side researchers. So what's the best way to behave when your advice is ignored?

 

1. Push to get answers.

 

If solid MR evidence is rejected and a course of action is taken that contradicts the MR recommendation, it's important to find out why it was rejected. Are there business issues that you simply aren't aware of? Is there data you don't know of that contradicts the research?

 

Before reacting against the feeling of being ignored, make sure you have the complete picture. Ask those you are dealing with how you can best ensure the next project is organized so that you have all the relevant facts and are aware of all driving forces from the outset so they are baked into your thinking from beginning to end.

 

2. Don't sulk.

 

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking "If only the company followed my advice more often, it would be more successful." This is often counterproductive: If marketing and sales simply see market research as a beacon of self-righteousness, happily isolating itself from market, competitive or political pressures, then they are less likely to take us seriously as business advisors.

 

Try unfolding your arms when you notice they're crossed; make sure you smile as often as you frown. Body language is important.

 

3. Let the evidence do the talking.

 

It's easy to get defensive, maybe even emotional, when you feel strongly about a business decision. Never let your emotions get the best of you - present the evidence clearly, document it for the record but don't allow anything to appear personal.

 

4. Ensure key stakeholders are informed.

 

Market research value is derived from delivering messages based on empirical evidence for the good of the whole company. That means narrow-interest fields and personal ambitions have to take a backseat. When faced with the situation of being ignored, ensure that all key stakeholders are informed about your evidence. Offer to discuss it personally with managers at all levels and clearly state how you see likely consequences of a given course of action being followed or ignored.

 

5. Learn to move on.

 

Once you've made sure all key decision makers are aware of your recommendations and your advice is documented, it's time to move on mentally. Don't constantly refer to the project where your advice was ignored. Use the next project to show how important MR-based evidence is in helping the company make good business decisions and push to continually establish a culture where MR input is valued.

 

If you continually get the sense that MR advice is ignored, then it's probably time to ask the question if the culture you are working in needs changing in some way. Raise this with your line manager and ask how you can best help effect a shift. 

 

Take the lead 

 

Ultimately, companies that choose to either ignore or not elicit customer and consumer feedback are less likely to be successful in the marketplace than those who do. Market research needs to take the lead in this process, regardless of how many new data sources are becoming available. The better we are at managing potential setbacks, the more respected our voice will be in the organization and the less often we're likely to experience the pain of having our advice ignored.

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