Along with a group of market researchers from around the world, I was asked to participate in Voxpopme Perspectives – an initiative wherein insights industry experts share ideas about a variety of topics via video. You can read more about it here or watch the videos here. Viewers can then reach out over Twitter or upload their own video response. I’m more of a writer so you’ll catch me blogging rather than vlogging. 🙂
Episode 5: How can you best educate, develop, and improve yourself in market research?
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 topics with 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!
So there you go! Free and informed!
Live note taking at the AMA Houston. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.
- All her employees are millenials and they are all digital offices in different countries
- No generation is all the same – 18 year olds are not the same as 34 year olds even if they’re in the same segment
- Why mentor – learn new things, understand them better, longevity, faster growth, keeps you at the top of your game [for me, it’s just the right thing to do, you ought to help other people when you’re in the position to do so]
- Know what they believe strongly in, embrace honesty and openness, be an active listener, expect mutual benefits
- They grew up with people listening to them, you don’t have to agree but you have to listen
- They want mentoring and coaching, straight feedback, and formal development programs; they’ve always had structured actives and are used to having a program to help them become a better worker
- It’s not you. It’s not one to one. Peer mentoring, reverse mentoring, speed monitoring.
- They want personal advisory boards. Introduce your network. Recommend contacts to expand horizons. FInd a specific task for a specific expert.
- Everything needs to be faster, faster feedback
- Annual reviews are over, everyday reactions or serendipitous interactions are prefered, continuous feedback and listen to the redactions [but make sure if you do it publicly that the person is okay with that]
- Ongoing training is extremely important, crowdsourcing answers, webinars, and even formal training and conferences, ask them to choose speakers who align with their goals ahead of time, ask them to go to all the networking events and then add to the company blog when they get home
- Be the best example you can be
- It’s a two way street, you both have to adapt and change because good communication takes two participants
In Canada, there are very few schools that specialize in teaching the skill of market research at the undergraduate level. In fact, I only know one.
Now, there are many, many programs that inclde a couple courses in statistics, or research design, or marketing. These at least provide some fundamental knowledge so that when you hear a term later on, you at least recognize that it is a term. If you can’t find an MR program, the next best thing is to do a degree in psychology, sociology, geography, or marketing. I may be biased but I think the best option is a major in psychology with a minor in marketing. You can see though, that even if you create an optimal program, none of these focus on the art and science of MR as its own academic area.
Even those folks who go on to earn graduate degrees fall into the same bucket. Psychology graduate students do their research on psychology topics and probably never take a marketing course. Their research skills are top notch but an internalized perspective on marketing is lacking. And, marketers do their research in marketing and don’t have the background in social psychology to better understand why people buy the way they buy.
What it means is that most new market researchers come to the table with serious gaps in knowledge. They must resort to learning on the job. If they’re lucky, the person who trains them is a wonderful mentor with many years of experience. But those folks are few and not always readily available to the junior folk. What is more likely the case is that someone barely senior to them tells them just enough to get the job done because they are still trying to learn the skills themselves. In my case, the only mentor I had was an intro marketing textbook that I picked up at a used book store.
We are fortunate that our MR societies have ongoing training courses and certification. Unfortunately, these cost money and new graduates just don’t have that kind of cash. Nor do their employers have money to invest in a newbie. Which means a lot of people in the MR industry are not as skilled as they should be.
Maybe this is partly why our industry is struggling through data quality issues. Not enough people understand the psychology behind survey answering. Not enough people understand the myriad precise techniques of writing survey questions. This lack of MR skills leads to bad surveys which leads to bad survey experiences and results in declining response rates.
So, here’s my idea. It’s not new. If you work with newbies, be that missing link. Be a mentor. Teach them everything you can. Send them to conferences. Make the time to set up lunch and learns not because you have to, but because its the right thing to do. Invest in your company by financing their CMRP certification. This will lead to a better research product, happier employees, and a stronger company.
I thank you, and your newbies thank you too!