Tips on navigating the current inflationary environment and potentially constrained budgets.

06 Nov 2022 | Research & Business Knowledge

Throughout October ICG member Dan Young has been sharing resources with clients.   He shares these with us in this post. Hope you find them useful with your own clients and in your own business.

1. Free research about the cost of living crisis

Unless they’re involved in politics at the moment, most other organisations I speak to are concerned about one thing – the cost of living crisis.

There’s so much uncertainty. How will consumers react? Where will they cut back? And what spending will they prioritise?

Luckily, there’s a large bank of research out there to help answer these questions.

I always advocate making more of existing knowledge. So I thought it would be useful to give you a list of some of the great (free) sources of insight to help you navigate this cost of living crisis. (Note: mostly UK/GB-focused)

This isn’t an exhaustive list. If you’ve seen other useful sources, please add them to the comments.

From all of the research I’ve seen, one chart stood out for me in the Parliament Research briefing:

It predicts the rest of 2022 will be tough for households and businesses, with inflation peaking in October to December this year. But the BoE expects the pressure to ease into 2023.

Fingers crossed they’re right.

2. Seven tips on synthesising and assimilating your insight

Each organisation has years of research. They want to take stock of it. They want to look at what they know already, what it all means, what the gaps are, and what actions they can take from it.

If you’re thinking of doing the same, here are seven tips to help you along the way.

A. Keep your objective in mind

Like any good piece of research, you first need an objective.

You might want to build a consistent narrative for new agencies and partners. You might need to understand what’s driving sales in a particular market. Or you might want a baseline from which to set your new marketing strategy.

All of these require a slightly different approach.

B. Visualise your insight

We tend to create mindmaps to structure and categorise all the insight we have.

It takes a long time. But when you’ve done it, you can step back and very quickly see:

  • Where you have most insight (e.g. messaging)
  • Where you have less (e.g. competitor brand analysis)
  • What the gaps are (e.g. consumer decision-making)

Plus, this is a brilliant reference tool for the future. All your insight’s in one place.

C. Keep collaborating

It’s very easy to disappear into a black hole of research. When analysing over 30 different reports or sets of data, you can lose sight of what’s important and what’s not.

It’s best to keep talking through what you’re finding, what’s interesting, and what you think it means.

It keeps you focused on your objective. It means your output is much tighter and less likely to be just a long, regurgitated version of existing reports.

Like the best research, the best insight assimilation tells a story.

D.Tell a story

Before even opening PowerPoint, you should know what story you want to tell.

It might be a typical customer’s journey through your business; from not knowing about you to becoming a loyal customer. Or it could be based around the four pillars of your organisation’s strategy.

This story is the framework for your insight. The story people go away and tell their colleagues. The story that sticks.

E. Challenge myths

We all know them. Those myths that are seen as facts within companies. They’re intuitive to everyone who works there. But in some cases, they may not be based on any particular evidence.

Challenge them. Which are supported by your research and which aren’t? Use them as your classic research hypotheses.

Take the common analysis of the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Most commentators seem to accept that people voted leave because they felt left-behind by globalisation and/or were fearful of it. Is that the case? Does research support this?

It’s your job when assimilating your insight to show a true picture of what’s going on, not just the internal picture.

F. Be clear

Research findings can sometimes talk about how organisations need to speak in particular ways to be more “motivating” for customers or how businesses need to operate to “drive brand engagement”.

This is great. But what does it actually mean?

Are we saying more people will buy the product? Or more people will renew their contract? Or we’ll lose less business to competitors? If we are, we should say so.

When the language is clear, there’s no hiding from what needs to happen and who needs to do what. It’s much easier to act.

G. Give it time

Assimilating insight is like any other form of research. It needs an inquisitive, critical, objective mind. It requires patience.

But most of all, it takes time.

We typically spend anywhere between five and fifteen days assimilating an organisation’s insight. How often do you have this amount of time in your diary?

Most of all, it takes time.

You need time away from distractions and meetings. You need to follow a train of thought and follow it to its conclusion. You probably need to work from a different office or from home.

3. Tips for how to tell better stories with your insight

A. Include storytelling from the start

  • Start with your goal in mind. What sort of story to you need to tell? To who? And to what end?
  • You should be writing your headlines as you go. That way, you know you’ve hit on an insight worth sharing and a story worth writing
  • And think about your medium. Does it need to be a film, a slide deck, a podcast? This needs to be carefully planned and built into your process

B. Editing can make or break your story

  • Professional video-editing can really make a story sing (or sink). It’s worth spending the time getting it right. And this can mean a lot of time. Chris Martin at Flex MR reckons 30-60 minutes per one minute of final content
  • Be ruthless when editing your content. Superfluous information will only distract your audience and dilute your main message
  • Don’t feel you have to include everything in your story. The evidence can sit somewhere else

It’s about connecting things in people’s minds rather than providing all the evidence.

C. Meet stakeholders where they are

  • Know your audience. Think about the style of communication that works for them. This might be a quick chat in the kitchen or a two-bullet point email. It depends
  • Find common ground with stakeholders and use that as the bridge in your story
  • Instead of telling people what to do, pose questions? Don’t be overly sure of the answer. Lean on their expertise, collaborate, and have them develop their own solutions
  • Don’t take their criticism personally – just use it to tell a better story

D. Stories need emotion and a happy ending

  • Start with a customer quote or video as your hook
  • Real stories of real people are more powerful than data. The stories collected by the FA of women becoming football leaders through its community programme showcased this brilliantly
  • Take stakeholders to a “happy place” at the end. People always remember the last thing they hear. And you create the right environment for action if this final message focuses on what’s possible, connecting your story to the business and its strategy

E. Accept the different hats we all wear

  • We all have a different view of reality. The brand team views things from a brand point of view, product teams are looking for product innovations etc. This doesn’t mean one is more right than another. But it does mean all stakeholders have a different perspective. Embrace it
  • But don’t exclude yourself from this. Put your agenda to one side and accept that you too have an agenda and view of reality that’s different to your stakeholders
  • Only by triangulating all the knowledge we have, can you build a consensus view which takes into account all these (potentially contradictory) realities

F. Stay away from PowerPoint

  • Probably my favourite tip from a recent day presenting at an MRS conference on storytelling. I’m not saying stay away forever. But stay away until you *absolutely* know what you’re trying to say. It’ll stop you including too much, showing your working, and diluting a strong story.

We all accept the customer insight sector needs to get better at telling its stories. Living by these six is the perfect place to start.