Fundamental Qualities and Skills of Market Researchers

As you may know, Market Research is one of the Awards Categories that folks can be
nominated for at the Analytics Hall of Fame. Our Analytics Hall of Fame membership is
global and is open to professionals who work in the following disciplines:

  • Analytics (Insights, AI, Data Science)
  • Business Intelligence and Big Data
  • CRM (Mar-tech, Sales, and Marketing Automation)
  • Digital Marketing and Analytics (Social Intelligence)
  • Research (Marketing, Market, and Competitive Intelligence)

Recently I read a blog on the IIA website by Brian O’Neill, owner of a design and UX
consultancy. In the blog, titled Garbage In, Garbage Out, Mr. O’Neill provided guidance
for undertaking end-user / stakeholder research, most notably around pitfalls that can
derail success in primary research. Specifically, Mr. O’Neill identified: the need for
empathy when engaging a customer, objectivity in the research process, and the ability
to ask questions that will yield meaningful answers.

I appreciate his perspective. Earlier this Spring I had the opportunity to guest lecture on
the role of market research in the new product development process for a class of MBA
students. The students had some familiarity and an indirect association with market
research and the research process and would most likely work with research
professionals in their corporate roles. I felt it essential to help them understand, as non-
researchers, when and how research could enable the product development process,
their roles, and the value a professional researcher could bring.

I spoke about the values of empathy, non-judgment, and objectivity, and why these
traits are essential for effective data collection in primary research. I would add a few
other characteristics and skills to the list that are hallmarks of the market researcher,
apart from knowing their discipline or having project management skills.

  • Respect for the market: perhaps more than any other role, the market researcher
    should be a market expert. This is more than knowing facts. It is an
    understanding and appreciation of the market and the customer’s role in creating
    business success.
  • Empathy for the market: akin to respect, empathy allows the researcher to
    appreciate the individual’s situation with objectivity. In data gathering, this is vital
    for building rapport, so the customer feels safe and is willing to share his / her experiences, needs, and wishes. This trait is especially important when dealing with sensitive issues such as health, finances, relationships, etc.
  • Objectivity: core to scientific research, we typically want to ensure the research process is as free of influence and bias as possible in achieving results.
  • Objectivity gives us confidence that learning is independent and repeatable. This is particularly difficult to achieve in studies focused on people (e.g., market research). The professional researcher tries his / her best to control for factors which may affect a study’s outcome (study design, analysis plan, questionnaire design, sample design, respondent type, time, geography, etc.).
  • Lack of personal bias: Researcher objectivity is vital for realizing the truth behind a situation. For that reason, we typically require our analysts and researchers not have a vested interest in a particular outcome. As professionals, these individuals are likely to have a point-of-view on an issue. However, they have a commitment to cultivate and deliver objective learning and reporting, whether or not the results are good news.

Respect, empathy, and objectivity foster and support successful research skills, including the ability to:

  • Craft and ask useful questions: This is more than knowing what kind of scale to employ or how to sequence questions. This is knowing how to construct questions and hold discussions that are objective and unbiased. This is also about using language that can be clearly understood and responded to in as straightforward a manner as possible, producing as clear and concise information
    as possible.
  • Listen to the research respondent (and business partner, for that matter):
    listening is a skill that demonstrates respect and empathy and allows us to open
    up the conversation to get the answers we seek.
  • Synthesize and report: this may seem obvious; however, as objective
    investigators, our role is to represent the whole of a study’s learning, not just a
    point-of-view based on a handful of conversations, often the last one being the
    most salient.

 

I hope the next time we engage in market research or seek to fill a research position, we are conscious of the full value a professional market researcher can provide the business. Their inherent respect and empathy for the customer, their objectivity, their ability to ask meaningful questions, to listen to what we are being told, and to create and share objective learning are powerful qualities and skills to have in the business’
arsenal.

Mark Weber

Awards Judge: Research

The Analytics Hall of Fame

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