Healthcare organizations certainly do a lot of research and collect tons of data. The question, though, is how can you help ensure that the research you’re doing and the data you’re gathering has real impact, that leads somewhere, that has “legs?”

Over the years I’ve seen patterns that predict when research has an impact and when it doesn’t—when it has “legs” and when it gets stopped dead in its tracks.

I concluded there are three essentials for obtaining research with legs:

1. Work Backwards. 

Working backwards is based on the premise that marketing research often fails because it concentrates on data acquisition, not data application. It is essential to start with what decisions need to be made and what actions need to take place as a result of the research. As Alan Andreasen, a well-known marketing and consumer behavior specialist, counsels in Harvard Business Review, “the best way to design usable research is to start where the process usually ends, [how the research results will be implemented] and then work backwards” towards design, sampling and fieldwork.

2. Unearth the Insight.

After assessing the successes and failures of the consumer research I saw, I concluded that research with legs always unearths a critical insight. The most insightful research goes beyond findings and general conclusions. It discovers a fresh perspective and a unique (but still relevant and applicable) take on things.  Insightful research gets people to look at the issues a little differently than they did before, and inspires them to take a less conventional, but better, course of action than they would have otherwise.

3. Tell a Good Story.

Bill Bernbach, advertising legend and founder of DDB, said that it is essential “to make [the] truth exciting and new, or [it] will be born dead.” And so it is with research. A litany of tables and findings is not enough. The report should be like a good book with an interesting, tightly woven narrative that the audience wants to read, listen to and act upon. To do this, the insights and implications must be engaging, concise and lead toward a powerful conclusion, like a good story. Research with legs grabs the organization’s leaders at all levels, not just the marketing department, and results in an inspiring research report.

So, as you launch into your next marketing communications planning cycle and begin to develop a research platform, consider these steps to give your research the legs it deserves.

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Marty Horn

Marty Horn

Director of Research and Consumer Insight at SPM Marketing & Communications
Marty leads all research initiatives for SPM clients, including qualitative and quantitative studies, and unearths valuable insights to drive strategy and creative development. With 30 years of experience in research as senior research director at DDB, he has worked on clients such as Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s, and State Farm. Marty also manages The SPM℠ American Health & Life Study—the first study of its kind that profiles how various life choices and behaviors influence healthcare decisions.
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