This article on audience research, featured on ArtsMarketing.org, encourages us to consider research in the broader context of institutional goals and strategies. While this is spun for arts managers, it's applicable to any organization whether for profit or non profit.
My favorite line is this:
"Research is about improvement. If you’re not going to program, market, schedule, fundraise, price, package, interact, design, educate, budget, plan, or something differently based on what you learn, then why bother asking your audience questions in the first place?"
I work with artists that come to me in a panic - their promo materials need help and they need a new logo and website. These are no doubt important observations but too often they consider the short term (and likely the least expensive and quickest turnaround) solution - a quick easy design.
As this article points out, everything should be strategic and holistic. It's my job to slow the train down and almost always back it up. Simply whipping up a new logo or poster doesn't address the deeper questions. Without those questions addressed and worked into the design, it's merely shooting from the hip. Research is key to everything - Who are you? What image or perception do you want out there? Who are you targeting? What do you know about them? What don't you know? What do you hope to do with the information? How can the research be applied across the board?
Be committed. Invest in yourself and your organization. As my dad would say: Do Your Homework!