Market research is an ever-growing industry, crowded and constantly changing. Therefore, as insight professionals, it is essential that we are flexible in our approach; continually seeking self-improvement and looking for new and exciting approaches to our work. These traits become the foundations of business longevity, allowing us to maintain a competitive edge within the market.
So, here are four nuggets of advice to make sure your insights are ahead of the curve and ensure you’re on track for a rewarding and fruitful career in market research. Oh, and some cheesy quotes for good measure.
1. Educate Yourself
“You can never be overdressed or overeducated”
Effective market research analysis requires multiple skills, including psychological insight, accurate and inquisitive data interpretation, organisational skills, and competence in interpersonal communication. With the requirement of so many skills within our role, we’re exposed to a multitude of learning opportunities.
Our learning is limitless. As much as the industry is continually evolving, so must we. As insight professionals it is important that we seek out opportunities to learn.
Say yes as much as possible; take all the opportunities your employer throws your way, which will most likely be in the form of additional training and qualifications. If these are not readily available then seek them out, the internet holds a vast collection of webinars, online training, guidance and educational sources. An obvious starting point could be the Market Research Society, which offers training courses, qualifications and free webinars, it also highlights upcoming events, such as conferences. Conferences are great places to keep up to date with new trends and innovations. Opportunities may arise to speak at a conference, step out of your comfort-zone and see what you can achieve; this can be a great platform for professional exposure.
2. Build a Professional Profile
“I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow”
- Woodrow Wilson
Closely connected to further educating yourself is listening to the experiences of others. Social media is a hive of activity which allows you to read blogs, listen to podcasts and open your eyes to new ideas and gain a better awareness of the trends and innovations on the market. Everyone has something to offer, from the enthusiastic graduates with fresh eyes and fresh ideas, to the worldly advice of long-standing industry leaders.
Insight professionals and Businesses offer a wealth of knowledge and advice from their blogs and podcasts. Sources such as Research Live, GreenBook and RW Connect, allow you to maintain a good idea of market trends and forecasts, be ahead of the game and keep your industry knowledge relevant.
Take advantage of those who are willing to share, but also find benefit in sharing. By sharing your own experiences and ideology you boost your professional profile. A great place to display your ideas and thoughts are networking sites, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn is a haven for insightful blogging and professional networking, whereas Twitter is a slightly more informal playground for sharing ideas.
Creating your own blogs and podcasts is also a great way of building up a professional profile. If you are passionate about your work and have creative ideas, let people know, showcase your potential to an audience who is seeking originality and confidence. Sharing your hard-earned knowledge with others is greatly beneficial to your profile, as it can open up doors to careers or connections that would never have been possible otherwise, and it shows that you’re more than willing to give something back to the community in return for the knowledge you have gained.
Conferences are also a great place to network and meet other insight professionals, use these opportunities to expand your connections within the industry.
3. Adopt Business Ideals
“Everything starts with the customer”
- June Martin
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s important to note that the work we provide is done so for an important purpose. Market Research has consequences and real-life influence on business decisions. Detecting routes to customer satisfaction rewards both clients and their customer base, as well as avoiding potential rejection from the public and any consequential losses in revenue. To understand the purpose of our work we must understand the business we’re working for. Business insight is essential to providing valuable and relevant results.
When you approach your research, each decision should be orientated around what the business is trying to achieve. Think, is this the most effective method to get these outcomes? Is there anything missing that could be useful? Having the advantage of an objective view into the client’s business, we have the privilege of looking at their ideas or concerns with fresh eyes.
Recognise that every business is unique, along with every project we conduct, there is no standardised method to approach these challenges. Adopt a variety of research techniques and detect those that best fit the needs of the client to help you pinpoint the answers to key questions. The more you know about the business and the better communications you have, the easier this becomes. Immersing yourself with the organisation allows your work to be exciting and rewarding.
4. Determine your Career Path
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
- Abraham Lincoln
The drive to better yourself within your professional role can come from an internal desire to do well, motivation of career progression or monetary reward. For most there is a balance of these forces pushing us forward, we want to do more, achieve more and perform better. The desire for more is only natural, but the action required to do so requires effort, time and resilience. Think about what you aspire to be, once you have elected your desired outcome, create a path that leads you there.
Different paths lay within market research, predominantly categorised by 3 areas within the field. Firstly, a career within a research firm; here you can learn about different methodologies and analysis techniques. Working on a wide range of projects exposes you to a multitude of approaches and allows you to take ownership of projects; from initial recruitment through to final reporting. This environment is a great opportunity to adopt a breadth of experience.
Alternatively, client-sided roles in market research can be attractive to those who want to work directly with a brand, this allows opportunities to see the effects of the research provided. Working directly for a firm will give you a great understanding of the business which, as mentioned previously, is key to effective research approach and analysis. For those who have identified a passion for a certain area of research this can be a great opportunity to gain specialised experience and become highly influential within their field.
Finally, another option for insight professionals is to get involved in advertising or marketing agencies or take on a consultancy role, either independently or for a consulting firm. Again, rewards are to be had with a variety of research opportunities and is a great opportunity to increase your commercial awareness.
The drive to better yourself within your professional role can come from many sources, such as a career change or personal revelation; and there are many opportunities that work to boost your career to the next level.
Whatever path you decide, in an ever-changing industry, all of these options have unique challenges and rewards but importantly, all allow for a continual professional growth.
In essence, hard work reaps rewards; open yourself up to opportunities, create opportunities, be aware of the industry you’re in and find your path within it. Work on your knowledge but also be prepared to network and form connections within the industry. Hold on to the fundamental principles that the client is key, and become familiar with the business ideals. As a consequence of learning and networking you can start to figure out your career progression and see what route interests you most.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.