Editor’s note: Sean Campbell is CEO, and Isabel Gautschi is marketing assistant, at marketing research firm Cascade Insights, Portland, Ore.
Marketing researchers don’t always get to give good news. Researchers often find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to explain that the product isn’t great, sales efforts are failing or marketing is kind of meh.
People pay for research when something goes wrong. To avoid a shoot-the-messenger scenario, marketing researchers need excellent business communication skills. Here’s our approach for delivering bad news in a constructive way.
Our research is often commissioned to identify a problem and to provide a solution. Basically, something has gone wrong and our clients want to know how to fix it. Breaking bad news to clients is just part of the job. We sometimes joke that our unofficial motto is, “We deliver bad news.”
For example, we’ve had to explain to a client that their field sales in the U.K. were so bad, customers were fleeing in droves. Another client had to be told that the upstart that they didn’t think was a threat very much was one. Convinced they had the superior product, one client was shocked to learn that the buyers they wanted were truly satisfied with a rival’s less flashy product. In another instance, our client thought they were losing deals to a competitor only because they had a cheaper solution. It turned out that not only was it cheaper, customers preferred the competing solution’s features and capabilities.
We’ve had a lot of practice giving tough feedback to clients. More importantly, we’ve learned how to deliver bad news in a way that motivates clients to absorb and act on our research findings.
Whether you work on the vendor or client side, here are 10 ways to turn bad news into constructive criticism.
1. Be direct. Spit it out. Being straightforward is important. Being indirect often leads to c...