If you have ever worked in a typical organisation, you will have almost certainly been under pressure at times to reduce budgets. Each time this happens, market research and information gathering tend to be one of the first areas to be cut. After all there doesn’t appear to be a negative impact on sales, so its Return-on-Investment is questioned. Sound familiar? Then read on.
Unlike advertising and communications to your customers, information gathering does not have an obvious link to sales, at least in the short term, so it is the first target many managers choose when looking to reduce costs. If you are tired of having to constantly defend your budget then I have some ideas to help, so that next time someone comes looking for money, it won’t be from your budget.
#1. Take your (internal) client’s perspective
What is the boss getting for his / her money? If you reply lots of data and information, then that is the reason your budget gets cut. People who have problems don’t want data they want solutions. Therefore don’t provide nice tables and graphs, but rather a story to inspire the changes you recommend, based upon your findings.
#2. Review your methods
Are you still doing the same type of information gathering that you’ve done for the last five, ten or even more years? If so then it is time to review your methodologies, questionnaires and reporting. The world is changing fast and you can’t expect the questions you developed years ago remain as relevant today as they once were. Take a look at your customers and see how they have changed and what needs to be measured today. That way what information you do collect is likely be in areas that are new to the organisation and thus invaluable.
#3. Review your reports
Another habit we can get ourselves into is to continue to produce the same old reports with the same KPIs, graphs and tables. Or sometimes even worse, as I once sadly witnessed in a major FMCG / CPG; the reports just kept getting bigger and bigger as more and more information was added. It got to the point where management woke up to the fact one day and (rightly) cancelled the whole report!
As with methodologies, your own reports need to be regularly updated. What are your own clients really using out of everything you circulate? You may be disappointed to see just how little they use. If they are not reading / reviewing everything you send, then stop sending it. When you get over the shock, you will be happy to have more time to develop more useful analyses. After all, the main reason we get locked into habit is that we don’t have time to think!
#4. Review your costs
Are you working in a regional or global organisation? If so, has your company negotiated discounts for multiple purchases of their different external reports and analyses? Many suppliers are open to providing a discount for a st andardised report or mass purchases of regular reports they produce. However they won’t offer them if they find unnecessary multiple purchases, why should they? You have to ask for them.
#5. Review your value
With the above four points you may be able to avoid a budget cut next time, but you need to also prepare for future crises. Review what value you provide and admit honestly whether or not you would pay what you cost your organisation, for the information and insights you provide. If not, then act quickly before someone else realises this too. Find out what your clients need and provide more of it. Perhaps even more importantly, find out what your clients may need in the future and are maybe not yet aware, and pre-empt their request by offering it. That will certainly impact your value and their appreciation.
If you follow these five tips, then you have a good chance that your budget will not be cut next time your manager has to make a cost-cutting exercise. Have other tips to add? Please add your comments below and also share these with your colleagues. They will appreciate your foresight.