Q&A with a client-side 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

How did you first become interested in marketing research? 

I first became interested in marketing research in college. I took a course, and I was hooked. Even though I graduated as a marketing generalist, I have always incorporated research into planning and strategy and decision making. It was during my time at 3M in the strategic marketing group where I really honed my marketing research skills and expanded my toolkit. I was able to work on some amazing projects with brands like Post-It Flags and Thinsulate that required primary research. I had the chance to conduct focus groups, conjoint analysis and work on my questionnaire design skills. 

Do you have any tips for marketing professionals looking to improve their marketing research skills? 

The focus of marketing research is to guide and support marketing – and business – strategy and planning decisions. You need the data to get to the insights which lead to recommendations. You must start with a goal identifying what problem you need to solve for. And from there, determine the methodology – primary vs. secondary or a mixture of both – that will help you answer the questions that are critical to your goal. 

I would consider formal and informal ways to improve your skills. Part of the experience is to test and learn. Shadow someone for a day within your organization in research or have informational interviews with people in your network. Try being a moderator of an informal focus group. I had no research budget at City Winery, but we wanted to hear from current members and those members who were less engaged, and I designed a moderator’s guide to help us get the data needed to develop new membership tiers – and I fed them wine and cheese for their time. Find marketing research agencies that specialize in your industry. There are a lot of great groups where you can learn more. I recently presented at an Insights Association event, and it has local chapters around the country. I connected with them through the Quirk’s Chicago Event last year!

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

I have the good fortune to work with a leader in marketing research in the tourism space, SMARInsights. The relationship was formed before I joined Choose Chicago but because of their expertise in our space, they have proven to be a valuable partner time and again. 

There are three qualities that make a great research partner: First, they understand the larger picture, the strategy behind what you want to accomplish and your goals. Second, they work well with other agencies and vendor partners and don’t let pride get in the way. Third, they provide timely data and know how to translate those data points into insights and actionable recommendations.