Making Your Case to Management

The Internet has created a new era in market research. Online surveys, coupled with the latest analysis tools, provide unprecedented insight into what customers want and need. To make the most of this information, market researchers need to present it to upper management in a clear, persuasive way. They need to demonstrate how market analysis can have a direct effect on their organization’s bottom line.

Bursting the Tech Bubble
When people talk about the “tech bubble,” they are usually referring to the inflated price of technology stocks around the turn of the century. But there is another kind of tech bubble — the bubble of knowledge that sometimes isolates experts from the decision makers in an organization. To reach those decision makers, market research experts need to burst the bubble and present their findings in a meaningful way.

First, you need to take a hard look at the language you are using. Every profession has its own jargon, and market research is no exception. Statistical tools can be very powerful, but the language of statistics can be impenetrable to managers who have no training in the field. In presenting the results of your analysis, use everyday English and standard business terminology. Show managers that you speak their language and understand their concerns.

Second, make it visual. Many people, even upper-level managers, have trouble understanding the significance of statistics. Fortunately, the latest online survey software gives you a variety of ways to present the results of surveys in visually appealing ways. For most people, a bar chart is much more meaningful than a column of numbers. Just remember to keep your charts and graphs clean and simple. A pie chart with 18 slices is not going to be very appetizing.

Third, stay focused on significant business issues. Your research may have uncovered all sorts of interesting information about customers, but you need to decide what’s really important. Remember that people have a limited attention span. Don’t clutter up your presentation to management with insignificant details.

Overcoming Resistance
In making your case to management, keep in mind the human factor. In many cases, successful managers have earned their positions because they have a history of making good decisions. Many of those decisions may have been based on gut instincts and intuition — what executives like to think of as good judgment. Top-level executives are often paid handsome salaries for their judgment, so why should they rely on your numbers rather than own instincts?

The key to overcoming this type or resistance is understanding how receptive to your message executives are likely to be. With some executives, you may need to present your analysis as just a refinement of your organization’s marketing plans. With others, you may feel free to challenge some basic assumptions about the best way to attract and keep customers. Remember that what you are doing is actually a kind of internal marketing. Your customers are the people who run your organization, and you need to come up with an effective way to get them to buy into your message.

Finally, be sure to show management that you are focused on the future, not the past. From a business perspective, online surveys are useful mainly as a tool for predicting customer behavior. Use your results to do a “what if” analysis of changes your organization might make to keep your existing customers and win new ones. Don’t be afraid to remind decision makers that there is a direct relationship between customer satisfaction and profitability.

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