Q&A with a corporate researcher

Jason Jacobson

Director of Consumer Insights, Woodside Homes

You spent most of your career on the supplier-side. What has been the most surprising part of working as a client-side researcher? 

There are few facets that are really surprising on the client side. First, when a research study is concluded on the supplier side you are done. On the client side though, that is often just the beginning! It takes a long time to infuse insights into an organization and ultimately act. The insights need to be packaged in a way that resonates with internal stakeholders and becomes part of their lexicon as well as put in context of the specific business issue. For example, we recently completed a research study that took three weeks to execute – write the survey, program, field and report – and then it took six months to bring the insights into our organization. 

Second, suppliers tend to be very focused on methods, new solutions, etc. While on the supplier side, we often marketed specific solutions that were branded. On the client side, we need to solve specific business issues. In looking for partners, I look for desired skill sets, mind-sets and expertise versus their specific offerings or branded methods.

Third, on the supplier side we often worked hard to create visually stunning decks, put a mix of data and insights together, show our work by having subgroup analysis, additional tables, etc. On the client side though, it is less about the numbers, graphs, charts, etc., and more about the story you need to tell your stakeholders. Our decks are very short, have few numbers and we focus on the two or three items we want our stakeholders to absorb and act on.

Do you have any advice for researchers working for a company that is in the process of rebranding?

We just completed a full rebrand here and leveraged the design thinking process. It was very helpful to have an intentional format versus relying on stakeholders’ feelings and opinions – which varied widely! 

  • Empathize: We took the time build out personas and understand who homebuyers are and what they wanted in a new home.
  • Define: We went deeper to understand what homeowners wanted in a new home relationship from an emotional perspective.
  • Ideate: Our agency and internal stakeholders brainstormed a host of ideas. This was a fun process!
  • Prototype: Our agency built out multiple versions for testing. We intentionally included a wide range and went in with no preconceived notions.
  • Test: We went through several rounds of testing, iteration and optimization. We employed both explicit and implicit methods because your brand must connect on an emotional level. 

This process led to internal buy-in due to the rigor of the development and testing process. Thus far everyone is excited about the new brand!

Could you share tips for researchers looking to influence decision-making and connect with key stakeholders?

This is all about building relationships and understanding where someone is at and when to push versus pull. First and foremost, you must get buy-in from stakeholders. Share the vision early on, get their input and allow them time to reflect back and confirm. Ask a lot of questions and truly listen. Make them owners – people champion what they own. It helps to have one-on-one listening sessions with stakeholders, so they feel their needs are heard. Take the time to understand their perspective and the insights they need to make decisions. 

When you present your insights, tell a story. Yes, that is an oft-used term, but data remains data. And data is not impactful unless you connect with stakeholders! Use story-based techniques to grab their attention and make them remember. Act as a facilitator of insights where you are the true voice of the consumer and source of truth. Work to be objective in your presentations.