For the fifth episode of Perspectives, we asked our panel of seasoned market researchers to share their actionable advice on how to best educate, develop and improve yourself within the insights industry.
Annie Pettit – Market Research Methodologist, AnniePettit@gmail.com, read more on her blog.
Our industry is really lucky to be one that is focused on learning, educating, and sharing knowledge. We have an abundance of mentors who love to help people grow. No matter your budget, you have great options for learning more about market research.
But given that not everyone has the funds to attend conferences, buy books, or take classes, I’ll share three of my favourite free options.
Blogs: Literally hundreds of market researchers around the world keep personal blogs. They share their unique opinions based on their unique experiences about a plethora of topics from focus groups and surveys, to chatbots, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality. You don’t need to know anything about the topics and you don’t even need to agree with a single thing they say. All you need to do is have an open mind to consider the ideas they’re sharing and you’ll quickly become a more informed and better decision maker.
I keep a list of hundreds of blogs in my RSS reader but here are some of my absolute favourites:
- Affectiva: If you’re ready to see what else is out there in market research land besides questionnaires, this is a great place to start. Facial coding, emotion, AI, biometrics, yeah baby!
- FlowingData (Nathan Yau): Lovely collection of beautiful charts, maps, infographics, and visualizations. Good place to stay on top of new and beautiful data.
- Pew Research Center: For the absolute best production of research about digital, social, there is no alternative. Every post could be considered a how-to guide on analyzing and presenting data. The topics are usually from the USA but the methodologies are universal.
- Lexalytics: Really nice posts on applying social media research to real life problems.
- Math with Bad Drawings (Ben Orlin): Lots of people hate math. Lots of people can’t draw. This blog uses bad drawing to help readers better understand math. It makes me smile!
- Not awful and boring examples for teaching statistics and research methods (Jess Hartnett): If you recall back to your statistics classes in university, most of them were pretty darn boring and made it really easy to tune out (Yup, I think 9 out of 10 of mine!). This blog has so many great ideas on how to teach statistics in ways that people enjoy. If you need a refresher, start here!
- System 1 Research Blog: Extremely well written thought pieces about marketing and research in all aspects of products, brands, life, and culture
Webinars: Ideas that start in personal blogs often make their way into companies where they turn into full-fledged research projects and then webinars. Sure, sometimes webinars feel like sales pitches but if you read between the lines, you can collect many tidbits of knowledge. Besides, learning about competitors’ products will help you in many ways – to improve your own products, point an existing client to a product that might work for them, or even partner with them on a project. In addition, Ray Poynter regularly runs webinars on a variety of topicswith guests from around the world. In both cases, you can likely view them after the fact. Just register for the original webinar so you can the link afterwards.
Online conferences: I have two absolute favourite online conferences. You’ve probably heard of the NewMR festival that Ray Poynter runs. I’m also a big fan of VizFest which is run by Keen as Mustard marketing and E-Tabs. These two events run once per year over several days and they host speakers from around the world on a variety of topics. Some of the top speakers from other conferences speak here so if you have no budget to travel because you’re a solopreneur or a tiny company, you can still enjoy some of the best and brightest in the industry!
Excerpts from the vlog
I think a really good way for researchers to evolve is to work with strategists and planners. And what they pick up from them is how you extrapolate from your research and move your client’s thinking forward, which is the strategic part of the research process. So yeah, I would say work with planners, find yourself a planner that you like and shadow them. – Mark Ratcliff
Go travel the world because that is the best way to hone your market research skills. To understand different cultures and different people. We live in a multicultural world and it’s very very important to live and read the culture to understand the cultural nuances, the differences amongst people. Because a two hour focus group is just not enough! – Rachna Chopra
Get yourself out to conferences outside of the industry. TED is a big favourite of mine, but whether you go to any sort of digital event, any machine learning, artificial intelligence, video-based events, find yourself outside of the research comfort zone and you’ll learn so much that you can apply and bring back to the industry. – @winifredatwell
In terms of delivering your findings back to your client that’s really important, find out as much as you possibly can about your audience, what makes them tick, who are the influences, who likes numbers, who’s more visual, tailor your delivery accordingly. – Liz Harrison
If you’re not familiar with Richard Feynman he was a physicist, and I know every time I say physicist people start to glaze over, but he’s done some really amazing writing around creative problem solving and creative thinking that I have found really valuable in terms of inspiring me in my own career. – @kristinluck
Trying to be a jack of all trades, really is not necessarily going to be helpful to you, especially not earlier in your career. It really ups the amount of competition that you’re going to have – @dbrowell
Make sure that you’re interested in the world around you, always be interested, understand how things work and why things happen, and to do that, make sure you’re following the events of the world and to understand different perspectives that are covering in it, being interested is the core of a great researcher. – @pd_hudson
I like to get as many different companies to pitch to me as possible, specifically companies that have their origin in tech. I find that they have interesting solutions and always tend to look at things from an angle that we’re not used to seeing. So I learn a lot from them just coming at things from this different angle. – @kerryhecht
Be an outsider. Do other things, don’t be a researcher all your life, do different things. The best researchers I’ve ever come across, anthropologists, ethnographers, whatever you wanna call them, have had other lives and other existences and other experiences that they bring to bear. – @SiamackSalari
One of the easiest things you can do to learn more about the industry is that next time you’re at a trade show or a conference, go up to every single exhibitor and find out what they do. – @Sn00pHogg
I ask for feedback. Ask a mentor or if you don’t have one I highly recommend it but ask a mentor, a trusted colleague or advisor. They’ll help you identify blind spots, so that you can skill yourself up in those areas that you might be somewhat deficient. – @baileighallen
The key here is to think kind of like a digital storyteller, like a digital journalist. There’s loads of resources here, the online journalism blog is an amazing resource for exploring where all the kind of lead in journalists are doing to use digital mediums to tell stories. Us researchers need to think more like that. – @oliconner
My top tip for educating yourself if market research is make sure you know as many people as possible. So easy to do. LinkedIn, Twitter can easily put you in touch with people. So, as well as the usual read everything, go on courses if it’s offered to you. Just get to know people. It’s really helpful. – @SineadH
Whenever you’re just walking around, whenever you’re doing your shopping, whenever you’re sitting having a coffee, do people watching, start having a look at the way that things are ordered, have a look at how people are behaving, have a look at adverts that are around about, the things that you see in day to day life. And try and understand the behaviour and the phenomena of how people are living their lives. – @andybuckers
Ask those in the team to sit in on briefings and just really share knowledge with each other in that way. My experience is this is more if not as valuable as formal training. – @JamesTurner247
If you work client side then see if you can get a placement or some time working in an agency and vice versa. So if you’re an agency, see if you can get a placement into a client for a period of time to support and help them. That sort of practical experience of seeing the other side of the dynamic in a relationship will be really, really helpful in developing your research skills, your commercial skills, and giving you the breadth of experience and knowledge that will allow you to take your career forward. – Paul Griffiths
Mentoring, I know Emirates are doing it, a great mentoring service at the moment which I’m sure helps a lot of people with those niggling questions that I’ve always needed to ask. – Johnny Caldwell
As I’m pulling together the final report, I’m putting finishing touches on, I read through every single slide and I think to myself “if I needed to make a decision for this brand, or this product, or this service, is this slide helpful? ” If it’s not helpful, I either revise or remove it. I think that’s an interesting thing that I didn’t actually learn to do, that I wasn’t taught to do until quite a few years into my career. – @mindsparklab