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Actionizing Market Research: Key learnings from the supplier side of market research

Eye-opening. That’s how I would describe moving from client side to supplier side research. Let me explain: For over 20 years I worked at a number of medical device companies in a mix of marketing, sales and market intelligence roles. Then, a recent career change brought me to KJT, where we conduct quantitative and qualitative research focusing on the med tech and pharma industries.

In my previous medical device roles, we didn’t do enough market research (although we didn’t like to admit it). Primary research was a luxury, representing only a small part of my job. Even in my client-side market research roles, I typically spent less than 20% of my time doing primary research or talking directly with customers. There was always a lot of data analytics, and we frequently referenced internal company data, syndicated studies, market size numbers and share percentages. However, we did little by way of understanding customer needs, loss reasons, drivers of product choice or what we needed to do in order to improve customer sat/NPS, etc. Yes, we measured and studied those things at a high level using a variety of secondary and primary research, but there wasn’t enough follow through in the “now that we know, what are we going to do about it?” category – or what we call on the supplier side: ‘actionizing’ the results of a study.

In simple terms, we didn’t do enough primary research, and when we did, we weren’t good at putting implications and recommendations into action in a way that drove business improvement. Why? Because it’s challenging to navigate the internal complexities of an organization, especially when you’re endeavoring to drive change. That’s why partnering with an experienced third-party research firm can help.

KJT team members – especially those with client-side experience – have many “been there, done that, have the t-shirt” types of moments when it comes to addressing client needs. On one project, for example, we were working with a client on Integrated Delivery Network (IDN) segmentation. They had the study results but needed further help driving segmentation throughout their sales organization in terms of ‘actionizing’ what the data was telling them to do. This work involved classifying accounts into segments, and then determining the path forward for each one of those segments. From my prior experience, I was familiar with some of the client-side pitfalls, what had worked well in the past (from my point of view), which marketing priorities to drive, what Sales needed to do to be successful, etc., I was able to share those learnings and work with the client to roll out segmentation results swiftly and smoothly within their organization.

Of course, actionizing those results started with the quality of the data itself. As both a consumer and [now] a provider of primary research, I’ve been asked, “Is there anything ground-breaking in this field in terms of creative, new research techniques?” Firstly, now that I’m more familiar with research methodologies, I’m so impressed with the analytic techniques available to glean insights from data – things like Gabor Granger, MaxDiff, Opportunity Potential Analysis (ie, Ulwick Opportunity Score Method), Uptake Analysis, Perceptual Mapping, Van Westendorp Price sensitivity Meter, Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency (TURF – for message optimization) and more.  I am also seeing some very innovative new methodologies: ranging from tracking studies that are in the field continually (non-discrete research) with a web/dashboard platform to view results, to, on the other end, ‘agile’ research which consists of very short, quick-turn research engagements that build upon one another.

These ever-better tools and technologies help research suppliers collect the broadest data sets, while the human capital at agencies like KJT can provide the deepest of insights. Since being on the supplier side of research, I can confidently advise my client-side colleagues and partners to let their research suppliers do the heavy lifting. Even in the exploratory stage – a great place to start is by scheduling a no-obligation call with one of your research suppliers to say, ”Hey, I want to do X. Can I do it? If so, what’s the best way to go about it, and about how much would it cost?”

Another thing I’ve learned is that the best way to draw the most useable insights and recommendations from a study is to work with your research supplier to co-develop them right at the outset. Rationale:  you know your business best, and they know the research best.  It’s a win-win combination. At the earliest stages of a project, it’s worth the time to sit down and determine KPIs, project scope and design together. This will optimize your chance of being able to ‘actionize’ results.

As you can see, the duality of my professional journey has helped me build a tremendous appreciation for the actionabilty of research – and on the flip side – the risks clients take when they don’t fully understand consumer needs or how to implement necessary change in order to meet them. In the short-term, this can result in inefficiencies, waste and lost opportunities. In the longer-term it can hamper company growth.

Finding the right research partner is the key.

In the field of research, accuracy and rigor are table-stakes. From a client-side perspective, I always saw the value of working with a friendly, collaborative and accessible team, which ultimately amplified the quality of work product. I believe in the saying, “If it’s not fun, you’re doing something wrong.”  As researchers – on both the client and supplier side – we should all be having fun and learning from one another, while reaping the benefits and rewards of co-creating studies, spending time talking to customers, listening, gathering primary research and then actionizing what they’re telling us. If this sounds about right to you, be sure to check out for more information how KJT can help your business.

By Shawn Miller, Solutions Consultant, KJT.  Shawn is a veteran of the Medical Device industry, with over 20 years experience in sales, marketing and market intelligence roles.  He now works for KJT, a market research supplier that provides actionable research and consulting in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.  Shawn also serves as an advisor for two companies.  In his spare time Shawn enjoys running, hiking and reading.