Why read this? : We share some of the challenges you face working with market researchers. First, we look at why they don’t like being called market researchers. Then we go into some of their most annoying behaviours. And lastly, we share what we wish they did more often. Read this for ideas on how to work better with market researchers.
Research is how you understand customers. How you understand what they need. Understanding customer needs is how you start marketing.
Market researchers for non-marketers
Some market research clients won’t even work in marketing. And if you haven’t experienced working with market researchers, there’s lots to learn about how to get the best out of them.
And that experience is that often when you work with them, market researchers will drive you crazy.
Are they market researchers or consumer insight managers?
First, there’s that confusion over the name of what they do. Is it market research or consumer insights? We’ve found most market researchers prefer to call themselves consumer insight managers, rather than market researchers. Which adds to the confusion.
Because most non-marketers know the subject better as market research.
Putting both terms in Google Trends shows “Market Research” appears 60 times more often than “Consumer Insight” as a search term. So, as this article is aimed at non-marketers, we’re going to call it “Market Research” to keep it nice and clear.
Market research is what market researchers actually do. Consumer insights on the other hand are what they try to deliver. And what people do, is usually easier to understand than what people deliver.
Everyone knows what a plumber does, for example. But they’d sound crazy if they called themselves a liquid flow solutions manager. Even if that’s what they actually deliver. Same for postmen and postwomen. No-one would ever call them a package delivery facilitator.
So, it’s easier to call them market researchers, because they do market research. Insights are what comes out of market research and your marketing data to plug into your marketing plans and brand activation.
But the people who do that job usually prefer the term ‘consumer insights’. It’s ironic that ‘the voice of the consumer’ in the business finds it hard to use the term actual consumers use to describe them.
Why do market researchers not like the term market researchers?
For us, there’s 2 reasons market researchers don’t like calling themselves market researchers :-
Intrusive and/or sneaky
Market research has become associated with intrusive or sneaky behaviours. The ‘on the street with a clipboard’ crew who get in your way when you’re running to catch that bus.
There’s the ‘hey, we’re just calling right in the middle of you making dinner to see if you’d answer questions on home insurance’ bunch too.
Then, there’s the assumption market researchers are just trying to snoop into your life. Nobody likes answering nosy questions.
Consumers are suspicious these guys just use ‘market research’ as a way to sell you stuff, right? The industry has got much better at weeding out this type of behaviours. But the public perception of market research still persists. We can see this as a valid reason for wanting to not be called “market researchers”.
The type of people market research attracts
However, there’s also the type of people attracted by working in consumer insights.
We base this admittedly un-statistically verified perception on the experience of working with probably around a few hundred ‘consumer insight’ people over the years. Most of them are smart and technically knowledgeable. After all, it takes a certain amount of expertise and skill to do market research properly.
But OMG, don’t they just love reminding you how smart and knowledgeable they are?
Maybe it’s just us. But it seems like 8 out of 10 market researchers can’t stop themselves from being smug about their cleverness.
“Oh no no no. You can’t possibly conclude that from this report” they tell you.
Because some other report from 2 years ago stated something completely different.
‘Oh, of course, 3 months data isn’t nearly enough to mark this out as a trend. We’ll need at least another 9 months before we can confirm the assumption” they’ll tell you. With a slightly superior air like the teacher at school correcting you on getting something wrong.
Thanks for adding a pain point to our lives.
The 3 behaviours of market researchers that drive you crazy
But beyond those, there are 3 specific behaviours of market researchers which will take your pain to the next level. And we know we’re not alone in feeling this.
Long reports never seem to tell a clear story, but you get them a lot from market researchers. 100+ pages. Who want’s that? They’re only going to end up filed in a drawer or shared drive never to be read again.
And why is the first 20 pages / 20 minutes wasted going over the methodology? That should have all been agreed up front and is worth about 5 minutes at the most.
These are typically where you’ll find the marketing research purist in their element. In our guide to marketing agencies, we highlight how to spot them.
Poorly thought out recommendations
It’s not great when you get recommendations which fall into the ‘damn obvious’ camp. For example, “this brand needs to grow awareness / consideration / trial / loyalty’ etc” – well, duh.
Or when the recommendations are meaningless. Our favourite was when one very junior agency person told us “this brand needs to do more to grow sales” (er, what did you think we were trying to do?).
Also, recommendations which don’t take account of what else is going on in the business. Or how practical their recommendation is.
Fear of committing to a decision
So many hypotheses. But frequently, no actual commitment to a recommendation. This might be the case. That could be true.
Well, we probably knew that before you did the market research. Wasn’t the point of the research to give us more certainty?
These fencesitters are another type you’ll commonly find in market research agencies. And while we understand market research only ever serves as a guide to what consumers will do, if you work in that space, have a bit more courage in your convictions.
Even if you only talk about probability, rather than certainty, that’s better than a vague and uninformative recommendation. We need your help with marketing decision making. Please commit to something.
Now anyone working in market research reading this might be feeling a rising sense of indignation. You might be ready to throw back the ‘you can’t say that about all market researchers’ (of course, what they would actually say would be ‘you can’t say that about all consumer insight people’).
And they’d be right.
But we can say it about most market researchers. We’ll get back to you with the statistically robust sample later of course.
What we wished market researchers did more often
That’s not to say, there aren’t market researchers who are commercially savvy and decisive.
But we’ve generally always found the best ones have spent time doing something else in their career other than being a market researcher. A few years as a brand manager or marketing manager, and then go back into market research.
This makes them more flexible. More agile. And therefore much better researchers to work with.
Researchers who’ve done this are rare. But every one we know who has, has always been able to tell a more convincing market research story.
We don’t mean to beat up too much on market researchers, (though it’s fun). When they get it right, they play an important role for the business. Great insights can lead to millions of dollars in sales, or stop ideas doomed to fail ever getting off the ground. But if only market researchers could work harder on talking like consumers, they’d have much more impact on the marketing teams they work with.
We just wish they were better at marketing their skills to their own target audience.