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7 business tips for market research professionals

7 business tips for market research professionals Olga Hoxha
There are a lot of articles out there on business tips given by various successful entrepreneurs, CEOs and the like. But what works particularly well for us as market researchers? You may have implemented a few of these tips, or they may serve as reminders of what you already know:

Focus on clients

As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, puts it:

‘Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient. We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with the customer and we work backwards.’

As such, when you work backwards, you start with clients, and their needs and problems. Apart from that, small things like remembering your client’s son’s birthday and sending simple thank you notes when appropriate, can make a world of difference in how clients perceive you and the company you represent.

One of the great ways to bond with your clients is to learn about their industry. Not only will it make you more knowledgeable, but it will also set you at ease when discussing all sorts of issues beyond the project you are working on for your clients. By showing your interest, your client may even invite you to an industry event. Needless to say, never decline such an invitation. You never know what kinds of opportunities it may bring.

Keep up with trends

The market research industry, just as many other industries, continues to evolve thanks to developments in modern technologies, the internet and social media. At times, it seems impossible to keep up with it all, but it might be worthwhile making an effort in order to stay in demand.

According to the 2014 Market Research Tools article published on the Marketing Association website, this year is all about smart phones, apps, geospatial analysis and big data. The interesting thing is that while the demand for big data is growing stronger, so is the client expectation that small devices like tablets and smart phones will handle even the most complex data.

Online surveys are growing in popularity. Strictly speaking this trend is not new, but what is becoming even more popular is online survey panels. They are expected to continue gaining momentum, this year and in the next few years to come. With a large pool of profiled members to choose from, panels take online surveying to the next level by allowing researchers to gather a large number of quality responses within short timeframes and relatively small budgets.

Make it visual

We are extremely visual beings and, as is common knowledge, most of us are better at learning and retaining information through the use of pictures, images and spatial relationships. Regardless of your clients’ preferred learning style, they will appreciate your use of visual aids when interacting with them.

Whether explaining a complex analysis, upselling or providing user support, try using the whiteboard to spell out your thoughts, draw a mind map, send screen shots by email, and see what your clients’ reactions will be. Chances are they will grasp the message you are trying to convey very quickly. And if your company happens to offer visualization services, don’t hesitate to bring them to the table when appropriate, and showcase what visualization tools can do for them.

Personal brand is everything

Everyone’s got a personal brand, whether you are aware of it or not. Even if you don’t immediately realise it, your clients have already formed an opinion of you through your interactions with them or by talking with other people about you. That’s how they learned about your personality, reputation, industry connections and past performance.

The great thing about developing your personal brand is that by employing the right techniques, you can make it as influential as you want it to be. ‘So, where do I begin?’ you might ask. To start, find out what your absolute strengths are and use them to your advantage, particularly to strengthen your personal brand. StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a book by Tom Rath that helps you discover your top five strengths through a comprehensive test, and teaches you how to apply them effectively.

And be mindful of certain factors that can either strengthen or weaken your personal brand. In a recent Forbes article, Glen Llopis lists ‘the people you associate with, your mentors and sponsors, the companies you work for, and your network affiliations (just to name a few)’.

The power of networking

You can never underestimate the power of networking, especially when it comes to the market research industry. Whether you think about it on a local or global scale, in this industry it’s just as important to know people as it is to have outstanding research skills and experience.

One of the reasons for this is that despite some research services becoming automated and internet-based, the importance of human interaction remains strong, and this is not going to change any time soon. As such, client meetings and other forms of communication will still take place years from now, and clients will still want to be able to pick up a phone and talk to a real person.

With that in mind, LinkedIn has proven to be a powerful tool for maintaining and growing your market research network. There are many ways to engage with your fellow market research professionals, such as joining relevant groups, participating in discussions, following market research companies and influential speakers, and subscribing to premium services.

Whether you choose to do it all, or just some of it, it will be beneficial for your status in the market research community and for the development of your personal brand.

Practice essentialism

Whether trying to solve a complex problem for your client, tackle big data or manage a large multinational project, start small and take it step-by-step. When ‘trying to go big’, according to the concept of essentialism, ‘the efforts inevitably fail because they are unstainable’. This may not work for everyone in the market research industry or in every case, but it’s a good approach to be mindful of.

Greg McKeown, the author of ‘Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less’, warns, however, that one should be careful not to assume that the practice of essentialism is simply about saying no. It’s more about saying no to the non-essential so you can say yes to the essential.

‘It's about designing our lives and careers around what is essential and meaningful’ and about ‘getting more done in less time’ rather than ‘getting less done’, says McKeown.

Don’t stop learning

Make an effort to attend market research seminars and conferences. They can be great networking events, offering opportunities to reinforce your personal brand and maybe even teach you something you didn’t know. The Research Association New Zealand runs what they call ‘Training Tuesdays’ events. Some of these events are presented by market researchers who are well known in the industry – and these are the ones I find the most educational.

Of course, attending industry events on your own could be a nerve-wracking experience. To get comfortable in an unfamiliar environment and/or overcome the fear of crowded places, talk to people sitting or standing next to you. This will give you a chance to make valuable contacts, share experiences and hopefully learn something new along the way, which is one of the main reasons for being there!

The world of market research could be viewed as a minefield, or it could be seen instead as an opportunity to find meaning and share it. Following these tips may very well help you achieve some of that.

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