"Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed." - Dan Zarrella
Knowing your customer is essential for your organization’s success. One Corporate Research team in particular is helping Microsoft “accelerate into the future” by providing enormous business value through their research and insights.
Reed Cundiff is the General Manager of Microsoft’s Customer and Market Research Team. He’s also a participant in the panel discussion, “The Corporate Research Department – Accelerating into the Future,” at The Market Research Event (TMRE) on October 16-18 at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona.
As a preview to the panel discussion, Reed shared insights on the business value of corporate research teams.
Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How can the corporate research department help shape their organization's future success?
Reed Cundiff: I think the answer to this question is simple to say, and very challenging to do. With the data and analytic tools at our disposal, corporate research departments can insert actionable insights at every stage of product development and customer engagement. That includes timely analysis of future market opportunities, clear-eyed views into customers’ wants and needs, detailed value assessments of product concepts, and insightful opportunities to position ourselves relative to competition.
Executing quality research in these areas is 15% of the work. The challenge comes in moving from data to insight, and from insight to action. Having the right blend of talent across research suppliers, corporate research talent and engaged stakeholders is what determines how we move from latent opportunity to truly driving business impact.
Our opportunity to drive the success of the larger organization has also been very consistent over the last few decades. The good news is that the thirst and pull from senior executives has reached a fever pitch in recent years. More than ever, leveraging research and market data for competitive advantage is the primary way senior leaders are looking to drive growth and business success.
PB: What role does the corporate research department play in helping to measure brand performance?
RC: It plays a huge role! To be clear, financial, social and behavioral data are interesting, valuable data types that we have spent a lot of time ingesting, understanding, and harmonizing with our more traditional data types. But even while alternative data types like social or telemetry have grabbed mindshare lately (as they should!), market research is a unique, valuable, enduring discipline.
Market research is especially good at providing insight into why people do what they do, and building understanding of what they intend to do next. When we want to understand current brand performance and more importantly predicting future brand performance, market research conducted by our corporate team is the foundation for measuring brand performance.
PB: How does the corporate research department help tell a compelling marketing story?
RC: If there aren’t already 10 books on the topic, there should be! I would just note two of the main ways we try to support our internal marketing partners as they engage with our customers and partners. Foundationally, it’s important that we speak the same language as our customers. Especially in a jargon-filled market like the Tech sector, it’s easy to either talk past your customers or lose your audience completely. We leverage qualitative research and social analytics to help our marketers understand how we can communicate to customers in ways they can understand and take action.
Second, we want to make sure that the messages we do put out in the market will come across as interesting, genuine and believable. We spend a lot of time with our marketers making sure that we test and optimize the nature and volume of communications we put out to customers and partners. With a diverse product set and fast product cycle, making sure we have high-quality messages in the right volume is critical.
PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
RC: I’m part of the panel discussion on ‘The Corporate Research Department – Accelerating into the Future,’ and I’m excited to attend this one! I think the audience (me included!) will get a chance to hear from leaders of some of the most innovative, industry-moving corporate research teams on the planet.
I’m looking at it as a great learning experience to see how insights leaders from Merck, Marriott, Prudential and Microsoft are grappling with topics like digital transformation, industry disruption, necessary skills for the future, and driving impact with senior leaders.
To me, this insight into the minds of senior corporate research leaders is helpful for corporate researchers looking to bring ideas and case studies back to their teams, and for folks on the supplier side to better understand the strategic agenda for some of their larger clients.