Q&A with a corporate researcher

Lisa Herceg 

Director, Business Insights, Research, National Association of REALTORS®

How did you get started in research and insights?  

Lisa Herceg Like a lot of us in this field, I fell into it completely by accident. Many years ago, I was temping doing administrative work to support a career in theater – my undergraduate degree is in theater arts. I was placed with a public policy research company as a clerk. The company very quickly hired me on as a secretary – back when people used that term – then promoted me to a more senior administrative role, then saw within about a year that I wanted to learn the business. And that I could. Within two years I had become an associate analyst. They trained me on survey design, proposal writing, recruitment and in-person interviewing. I realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t go any further with that company without an advanced degree, which they weren’t going to pay for. And I was very, very interested in becoming a focus group moderator. Which they also weren’t going to pay for. Someone told me I could move into marketing research without an advanced degree. So, I applied for a marketing research analyst position at the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and spent the entire interview saying, “I’ve never done that before, but I’m sure I could learn, and here’s why.” I walked out of the building thinking, “So much for that.” And to my shock, they offered me the job. I took it on condition that they send me to focus group moderator training at RIVA, which they did. 

I’ve since taken multiple SPSS and statistical analysis courses and received the University of Georgia certification in marketing research and the Insights Professional Certification (IPC) from the Insights Association. I was promoted three times more and now, here I am, director of business insights at NAR, with my own small team, 20-some years later.

What is the most rewarding part of working for a membership association? 

The members! When you give a presentation or help a member find a piece of information and you hear later that it made a huge difference to them in some way, that feels wonderful. 

If you had to narrow it down to one, what is the most essential skill for a focus group moderator to possess?  

The ability to build rapport and trust. If you can connect in a real and warm way with each of your participants in that first 15 minutes and then continue to make them feel as comfortable as possible with you, you can get much deeper insights from them.