Q&A with a corporate researcher

Editor's note: If you're an end-client researcher and interested in participating in a Q&A with Quirk's, please e-mail me at emilyk@quirks.com

What led you to a career in research and insights? 

I’ve always been both analytical and fascinated by human behavior. I think a lot of that stemmed from – or was strengthened by – the fact that I grew up with Deaf parents and was always shifting between the Deaf and hearing worlds. I loved observing the differences in culture and behavior and trying to figure out why people do what they do.

When I got to college, I ended up studying finance, satisfying my analytical side, and psychology, satisfying my interest in people, but wasn’t quite sure what that meant in terms of a career. Out of college I took a role as a financial analyst at General Mills. A couple years into my time in finance, I began working with a cross-functional team on Pillsbury Innovation, and it was there I discovered the world of insights. 

That was the big unlock for me – a career that combined analytics and human behavior, a career spent analyzing people and why they do what they do. I was hooked and fortunate enough to have had the support of the organization – and a couple amazing individuals in particular – to make the transition to insights. And for that I am forever grateful.

Do you have any tips for researchers looking to drive influence with business partners and ensure insights are not only shared but also acted upon? 

Yes! I’m so passionate about this topic. My biggest tip? Apply what you’re already skilled at doing as a researcher to your business partners. Build empathy for them, understand their needs, what they care about, what influences them and why. Then figure out how you can help them. Do they need information to help them make a decision? Do they need insight to illuminate the path forward? Do they need something they don’t yet know they need? Just as consumers can’t always articulate their needs, our business partners don’t always know what they need or should be asking for. When we proactively bring forward what matters – vs. just answering questions we receive – we play a role in setting the business agenda and strategy and become true business partners.

And to ensure insights are not only shared but also acted upon, think about some of the principles of advertising. Just as consumers need communication that captures their attention, is relevant and clear, so do our business partners. It’s our job to figure out what’s most relevant to them, and to share that in a clear and concise way that makes them want to “buy” what you’re selling. We need to go beyond reporting the “what” and translating that to the “so what.” Why should we care about this? What does this mean for us? And also the “now what.” What should we do as a result? Don’t leave your business partners to have to figure out what it all means. And make sure the “now what” gets shared with those that are in the position to make decisions and act – do you know who those are?

Based on your experience, what makes a great marketing research supplier?

In my role leading ops and capabilities, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many different suppliers and I also see new ones reaching out every day. The great ones, in my mind, have the following in common.

  • They continually have a pulse on the competition and how they compare. 
  • They can simply articulate what sets them apart.
  • They know and are upfront about what they’re good at, but also what they’re not.
  • They ask good questions and aren’t afraid to challenge and push back on clients.
  • They’re proactive vs. waiting to be asked.
  • They invest in technology/capabilities AND research expertise.
  • They not only execute great research but also have strong deliverables and storytelling.
  • And last but not least, they’re fun to work with!