Archive for the ‘Marke Research as a Career’ Category

Here July comes without my notice. One of the reasons might be I was too focused on my job hunting in the marketing research field.

After two years systematic study and hard work, now is the moment of truth. Job hunting can be terrifying for all newly graduates. For international students like me, it can be tougher. However, market researchers are never afraid of solving problems and dealing with challenges. From March till now, I have been actively job hunting and trying to accumulate as many interview experiences and tips as possible. I would like to share what I learned from those experiences with all the future market researchers. So here comes my new series of posts: Interview in the Market Research Field. My plan is to introduce the company I interviewed with, to share my preparation strategies, and, please forgive my nerdiness, to generalize the “patterns” of interviews in the market research field.

I want to start with my most recent interview experience for a marketing research manager position at Pile and Company. It is an innovative consulting firm focusing on agency-client relationship management in advertising and marketing. I described it as “innovative” because it is the first consulting firm I know providing services to make a bridge between ad, PR or marketing agencies and their clients, which I think is a really unique and fast-growing market niche. We all know branding, public image and perception become increasingly significant for all companies. Therefore, collaboration with related agencies is almost unavoidable.  How can the companies tell which agency is most appropriate to fulfill their needs? How can the clients evaluate the agency performances accurately without a research background? And the hardest part, how to reach an agreement with respect to compensation? Pile and Company fits right in to solve these problems.

I absorbed all information above at the very beginning of my interview preparation. I have heard a thousand times how important to research the company before the interview, but I cannot find many specific instructions and actionable recommendations. As for me, I always follow the “demand and supply” logic. Step 1: Figure out what kind of services the organization provide to its clients. Step 2: I ask myself what skills and expertise I can contribute to make the organization better serves its clients? I printed out and brought with me multiple copies of my resume, cover letter, transcript, reference list and writing sample on the interview day. I did it for all my on-site interviews. It’s more than that I can justify my qualifications by showing the materials at the appropriate time. I think the behavior itself can tell the interviewer that the candidate is a proactive and detail-oriented person. ImageImage

My interview was at 1:30 pm and I arrived half an hour earlier. I think it’s very important to get a little rest after the transportation and gradually adapt to the organizations work environment before the interview. Pile and Company has a small but exquisite office that decorated by the light green color on its logo. The recruiter who welcomed me is so friendly and considerate, which greatly eased my nervousness. During the interview, I got the chance to speak with two SVPs and an IT professional working on survey programing. I tried to organize all my answer to their questions under the “demand and supply” logic, and I think it worked pretty well. And I was glad that finally we turned the interview from a Q&A process into a smooth conversation.

To summarize, great company, nice interview experience.


As a market researcher, one major and important job is to deliver research results and corresponding recommendations to the clients. It includes both written and oral communication: writing research reports and giving final presentation. After you did all the background research, sampling, interview, data analysis, etc., now is the time to show your clients what you found. In my opinion, whether you can succeed in this final step highly depend on how much do you know about your “audience”.

Obviously, the audience is your client. No matter what kind of research you do or what problems you are asked to solve, there are three typical types of people who will review and use your deliverables from the client side.  I call them “End-user”, “Technician” and “Financer”.

Market researchers must be aware of the 3 types of audience and their distinct demands.

Market researchers must be aware of the 3 types of audience and their distinct demands.

As shown in the diagram, these 3 types of audience are different in their roles and expertise. Therefore, their focuses on market researchers’ presentation are also  distinct. Regularly, these 3 types of audience won’t be all shown up in a presentation, but sometimes they do attend the meeting together. So, the question is how a market researcher can satisfy all 3 kinds of audience in a single presentation?

The End-Users: They are usually from C-suite, like the CEOs, CMOs, or CCOs (Chief Customer Officer). They are super busy and have a lot of things in mind when digesting the messages from the presentation. Sometimes, they might join the presentation after the researcher has talked for a while, which made the situation even more challenging. However, what they expect from the presentation can be simply generalized into one question: “How can it help my vision?” They care more about the key findings and the interpretations than the data source and research process. So, make sure these key messages appear several times in the presentation, at least at the beginning as a executive summary and at the end as a summary.  If they miss those information at the beginning, they still have chance to know it somewhere else.

The Technicians: They are usually the in-house market researchers or research staff from PR/Advertising agencies that also work with your client. I call them “technicians” because they can do research by themselves, which means they know all the skills and techniques about sampling, research design, data analysis, etc. They are at the presentation to check and “question” your methodology. Therefore, we should make sure we prepare the information that they want. However, we may not explain it a lot in the presentation, especially when the “end-users” are also in the meeting. The preparation I mentioned include two things: a comprehensive research report and the anticipation of research-method-related questions in the Q&A session after the presentation.  Before you start presenting, you can explain that due to the time limit, the details of research process won’t be include in the presentation, but if the audience want to know more about it, they can get the information from the comprehensive research report or ask you in the Q&A session.

The Financiers:  They are usually the CFOs or account managers from the PR/Advertising agencies that also work for your client. The only thing they care about in the presentation is how feasible the research findings and recommendations from  finance viewpoint. In other words, what are the ROIs for the marketing strategies you suggest according to your research findings? If it is a presentation for request for proposal (RFP), then you need to show the total budget for the research and the breakdowns.

If you take into account the distinct demands of the 3 types of audience in mind when giving the presentation, you are halfway to success! Hope this post is helpful to you and I’m more than happy to hear your opinion!

Another video interview about different people’s perception of market research! This time, I interviewed one of my professor who teaches market research proposal writing and presentation skills at Boston University. He is also an extremely experienced market researcher with more than 40 years experience, serving as the CEO at HawkPartners, a boutique consulting firm that helps clients make fact-based decisions to guide their marketing and brand strategies.

Sorry again about my bad camera video recording skills, but I think you will like the content : )

To answer yesterday’s question, why is the marriage between “analytics” and “social” so powerful?, first of all, we need to go back to the essence of market research for a while. Yes, it’s all about solving problems, to be specific, solving the clients’ problem by providing them with relevant customer insight and intelligence. It’s worth noting that all three companies mentioned above are relying on the online context and all sort of relevant to social media. Social media is such a powerful tool to gather people’s ideas, attitudes and behaviors precisely. With keywords searching tools like twitter hashtag, researchers can easily identify relevant customer groups or target audiences, analyze their posts to find the pattern and make interpretations accordingly . To some extent, it simplifies the traditional sampling process, and more importantly, it dramatically accelerates the pace of market research since getting real-time data is no longer a dream.

Admittedly, the field of social data analysis and big data analytics is far from maturity and there are still space for its improvement. Another incorrect impression might be  this approach can totally replace the traditional market research relying on surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.  In the panel, DJ emphasized that social data analysis serves as an effective assistant for traditional market research, but it’s definitely not omnipotent. In my opinion, its first weakness is the demographic limit. Although the Internet and social media become increasingly popular, it’s still dominated by the young generation. For a market research project whose target is the old, it is dangerous to solely rely on the online social data. In addition, I don’t think currently we’ve found an effective way to match the social data about attitudes and the big data about behavior. Twitter and Facebook are good at telling us what people are thinking and sharing; Google AdWords and Google Analytics did a good job to show what people are searching; While Amazon and other big e-commerce giants know what people really buy. The three parties separately dominate one  important process of consumer intelligence: Awareness and Interest, Attention and Retention, Purchase and Repeated Purchase. If we could get these three kinds of data into one Super databases, then the market researchers can finally complete the logic of cause and effect. If the so-called “customized recommendation” can base on data generated by this dynamic, then it will become the REAL customization. It makes me feel so excited even only thinking about the potential power it possesses! However, it raised up the ethical issue of customer security and privacy. We want the valuable data and information, but we don’t want the customers feel intrusive and insecure.

Do you agree with me? Are you planning to develop your career in the emerging innovative market research industry? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Today is an exciting day. Yes, first of all, it’s the election day. But for me, even not considering the election, it’s still exciting because today I found new meaning and prospect of market research as a career!

From a career panel held in a class today, I got the chance to hear three young, promising professionals who used to study at BU COM, and now working in market research and communication industry, sharing their work experience and understanding of their jobs and the industry.  DJ serves as a Social Data Strategiest at Crimson Hexagon (a startup company providing social media analysis and big data analytics software and services); Chris started his career as a Community Associate at Communispace (a market research firm that works with online consumer insights communities); while Rachel is currently a Brand & Buzz Coordinator at HubSpot (a leading company providing inbound marketing software and services). Before diving into more information about their jobs and companies, I’d like to share two interesting numbers with you: 1. None of the three companies existed 15 years ago; 2. None of the three professionals’ job title existed 5 years ago. That’s the reason I name this post as “it(market research) is an innovation machine”. When the traditional market research analytics marries with “social” (no matter it is social media data, online communities or online marketing), it injects  strong energies and allows uncountable possibilities to the market research industry. The merger has turned the industry into an innovation machine.

Why is this merger so powerful? If you want to know the answer, please follow my post “Market Research as a Career: It’s an Innovation Machine! (2)” tomorrow!

Forrester Research, A Global Research & Advisory Firm

In this summer, I was really lucky to intern at Forrester Research, one of the most reputable global research and advisory firms. This is my first market research experience out of school, inspiring me how market research is like as a career. Honestly, it was not an internship that I would say is very enjoyable (you might find some reasons below in this post), but it didn’t change my dream of being a future market researcher and recently I realized that what I learned at Forrester is even more that I imagined.  I’m planning to share all the valuable experiences I had during those 3 months little by little in my future posts, making them into a series called “Market Research as a Career”. In today’s very first post for this series, I’d like to begin generally and share with you some of the keywords (or phrases) of market research as a career.

Forrester and Me

Challenging, Intense, but Exciting. I don’t need to explain how many advantages of having your first internship at a big name firm in a field, but believe it or not, there are also a small number of disadvantages, especially in the market research industry. The main reason is that it is a super challenging and intense profession. And the firms, especially big firms, always have high expectations on their employees, even on the interns like me. That is because, as an industry of great intelligence and power, market research firms are  “required” by the clients to always be the best. So, it’s normal that you feel stressful and unadaptable at the beginning of your market research career. When the first time I saw the schedule of my supervisor (Mr. TJ Keitt, Senior Analyst on CIO Research Team) is full from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., I really had no idea how he would handle it.  I saw him immersed himself in the endless interviews for new research reports, inquires by current customers and request for proposals (RFP). However, he enjoyed it, so did other analysts on our team I observed. Market research as a career has its magic: be the first one to identify new trends that might change an industry, be the hero (or heroine) who save your clients out of terrible situations, be the one who is respected by thinking logically, critically and comprehensively. Nobody can ever say that is not exciting!

Communication is the KING. There is no doubt market research is a teamwork. As I talked in the previous post, it’s all about solving problems, a market research project always has a long process (10-12 steps) and it is very continuous and inter-related. In industry, due to time and budget limit, it is impossible for one single team or department to handle all the steps. Survey design, sample selection, data analysis would be assigned to different departments, or even be outsourced. Though the tasks is in the charge of different teams, the results must be logical and consistent. Therefore, effective communication to other teams is the king for working at a market research firm.

Attention to details. This is quite self-exploratory. Market analysts always work with huge datasets and complex data analysis. Even an small error in data entering will make the output nothing but garbage.

Aggressiveness makes a good researcher. I was quite reversed during my internship at Forrester. When you a newbie surrounded by super smart analysts in a meeting, it’s too hard to bravely speak out the ideas in your mind! However, you have to! TJ told me that in a market research firm, almost no promotion is caused solely by how long you have been working. The “shortcut” to become a experienced and respected researcher is to voluntarily ask for various kinds of work. In other words, be aggressive.

Like my keywords for market research as a career? What are yours?

I started to “research” the market research industry from this April when I was actively looking for a relevant internship. Though I’m far from being an expert, my “research findings” did help me win the internship opportunity at Forrester Research. In this post I’m going to show you a snapshot of market research industry from a career-oriented viewpoint.

To make it clear, I created a diagram to show you what market research industry look like in my mind. Traditionally, market research firms can be assigned to two categories: research-focused firms and consulting-focused firms. Most of the research-focused firms will do both syndicated industry research and one-on-one consulting, while most of the consulting-focused firms don’t provide syndicated market research. From a firm’s products and services, it is easy to tell whether it leans to research or consulting. For example, Forrester is a research-focused firm with 70% syndicated research and 30% consulting projects.

A Snapshot of Market Research Industry by Jessie

Most of the research-focused firms will have their own expertise, that is to say, most of their research will focus on one or two industries. Based on my knowledge, Gartner, IDG and Forester Research are well-know for their authority in technology industry; IMS Health, SymphonyIRI Group are experts in health care market research. There are also some research-focused firms that don’t have a focused industry, like GfK Custom Research and Communispace. I prefer to call them “marketing research firms” since their research aims at generally exploring customer insights instead of predicting industry trends.

In consulting-focused market research firms, typically, there will be two major departments: account management team and data analysis team. People in the management team work at the “front desk”. They are the “communicators” who interact and maintain relationship with the clients. Their colleagues in the data analysis team will spend most of their time with computer, dataset and statistical analysis. They are the “techies” who ensure the research designs are optimized and the research findings are correct. As shown in the diagram, some top consulting-focused market research firms include Kantar Retail, Westat, and Datamonitor.

It is worth noting that there is an emerging new type of market research firms with the popularity of social media, online community and big data. Communispace is probably the most fast-growing market research firm on online community . Founded in 1999, this firm has been providing online consumer insights communities for market research for more than 10 years. The idea of online community makes market research even more powerful because it helps to identify various market segments for a product, service or brand. Crimson Hexagon is a good example of big data analysis firm. It helps the clients to get customer insights by analyzing relevant tweets, facebook posts and data from other social media. Thanks to big data analysis, market research, at its first time, is able to target each single individual instead of a big group.

Hope this post can give you a basic understanding of the market research industry. I’m planning to write more about the industry in the future, introducing the top market research firms one by one. Which firm would you like me to introduce first?