Nov 252013

Post by Liz Norman, owner of Elizabeth Norman International.

Despite the huge growth in technology ultimately market research is only as good as the people managing the projects and interpreting the results. To grow and compete, the industry must attract and retain high calibre staff. It must also train and develop them, giving them the skills necessary to drive the industry forward and make the most of the opportunities technology and global growth offers. The industry is not always doing that now and if it doesn’t have the talent, it will be far harder to succeed in the future.

Research as a career offers enormous variety, the opportunity to work with new thinking and technologies, and the chance to work on really key decisions for household names. Yet despite being an industry that is loved by many that know it, most graduates enter the industry after stumbling across it as a career option. As a result the industry is missing out on the skills of those who have a lot to offer but don’t know the industry exists. Research needs to take the opportunity to promote itself to undergraduates. In that way it will attract the best talent, but also promote the industry to the young business people of tomorrow. Regardless of whether or not they become researchers, we need them to appreciate the research industry.

As well as attracting more graduates, the industry needs to increase the number of graduate opportunities, to ensure a strong flow of future talent. It is also key that the talent is retained within the industry rather than lost to other sectors. As an industry with a lot of small/medium sized and flexible companies, research can offer the individual fast progression, variety, responsibility and recognition. The flip side is the same companies can lack strong HR/training and progression policies, and as a result candidates don’t benefit from the best of what the industry can offer.

As technology leads research into new spaces, researchers need the training in the technical and commercial skills necessary to ensure the industry takes advantage of the various developments taking place. One of the things researchers love about the industry is the huge variety of specialisms and the speed at which they are evolving. However this relies on them having the opportunity and training to take advantage of the various different skills. The risk is that commercial expedience, in a competitive environment, means researchers end up working on just one type of study which doesn’t offer the commercial and technical variety necessary. It’s also difficult, when so many companies specialise in a particular sector, to give researchers the breadth of vision to both develop and interest them but also allow their employer to evolve into new areas.

One way of increasing the variety of work and learning opportunities for researchers is to give them the chance to have sabbaticals with other organisations. Given that large numbers of research agencies are jointly owned by larger parent groups, there is a greatly increased opportunity to set up schemes which move researchers around between companies within the same group, allowing more learning opportunities. In addition as an increasingly established industry can we create key learning criteria and job levels making it easier to establish how careers can be progressed?

As manufacturers have become increasingly global, research has grabbed the opportunity to match their needs by also becoming global. A lot of researchers would also love the opportunity for a global career, yet at the moment very few move around, and those that do move often find it difficult to move back home. To give researchers the skills needed in a global world and increase retention, we need to make sure they benefit from our global networks.

In summary research has a huge amount to offer as employers. It needs to take advantage of that, so we have the talent to be an industry of the future. If we don’t do that, research will not make the best of the opportunities for its staff, and the employers and the industry will suffer as a result.

Click here to read other posts in this series.

Nov 242013

To help celebrate the Festival of NewMR we are posting a series of blogs from market research thinkers and leaders from around the globe. These posts will be from some of the most senior figures in the industry to some of the newest entrants into the research world.

A number of people have already agreed to post their thoughts, and the first will be posted later today. But, if you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to submit a post. To submit a post, email a picture, bio, and 300 – 600 words on the theme of “Opportunities and Threats faced by Market Research” to

Posts in this series
The following posts have been received and posted:

Oct 082013

Why doesn’t the UK have more successful start-ups? That was the question posed on Radio 4 to Wendy Hall (Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton) on the BBC’s Life Scientific programme.

Her answer was that we don’t kill things quickly enough. She went on to talk about some of the start-ups that she has been involved with. She described how a start-up might receive millions in initial funding. However, if it fails to take off, the company is then often given more money, because people do not want to see or accept that their money has gone. Her argument is that this tends to delay the end and gets in the way of new ideas being tried. Since most ideas fail, she would like the UK to move to a fail fast style, a form of agile business. Not only does it tie up money, but it ties up the entrepreneurs and idea makers who spend their time trying to make a doomed idea work, rather than moving on to the next idea.

When I think back to my time as a trustee of the Nottinghamshire Pension Fund, where one of our duties was investing, I can recall making this sort of mistake several times. At the time we did not call it a mistake, we thought of it as ‘being brave’ or ‘thinking long-term’ and showing ‘commitment’. But, perhaps Wendy Hall is right? Additional funding, from the same funding source, to something that has not taken off is probably not only a waste of money, it is probably something that wastes the time and effort of people who should be trying something new.


May 192013

1 It’s not your classic textbook
This book focusses on the questions that are part of the everyday practicalities of market research, the advice you don’t typically get from a textbook – the type of advice researchers would ideally have a mentor or more experienced colleague to ask – unfortunately not everyone has these support networks.

2 The contributors are practitioners
The content has been prepared by a team of experienced researchers, so the advice is relevant for researchers who are talking to clients, writing proposals, managing projects, developing questionnaires, analysing data, reporting results, etc.

3 A great resource for the generalist or research all-rounder
(Thanks to Sue Bell for emphasising this point.)
Many conferences and events, social media forums, and journals focus on specialist areas. This book, doesn’t cover everything, but aims to give a solid grounding on the basics, written and reviewed by experienced market and social research industry heavy weights who know what you need to know.

4 A balance between traditional and new techniques
The book covers the traditional areas – questionnaire design, qualitative, pricing research, B2B – as well as the emerging techniques, for example, communities and social media research.

5 A variety of views of expressed
In some areas of our profession there is not a consensus view – particularly in new and rapidly developing areas. This book highlights areas where consensus does not exist and presents the differing viewpoints.

6 The Client perspective is explored
Special attention is paid to one of the key relationships in market research, that of client and research provider, with an emphasis on the points of tension.

7 A Global Perspective
Unlike some textbooks, which focus on specific markets or regions, this book recognises many researchers are operating in international markets and also the issues and challenges faced by those working in markets with different levels of economic and technological development.

8 Ethics, Laws, Codes and Guidelines
As could be expected of book put together by ESOMAR, the book explains in simple and clear terms why we have these and how to fit them into everyday research.

9 Advice for both new researchers and more experienced researchers who are new to a topic
Thanks to Phyllis Macfarlane for emphasising this point.

10 It’s great value, at 20 Euros (including postage and packaging)
And, if you like it so much you want to bulk order for colleagues, clients, or students – better prices are available via ESOMAR!

Join us at the book launch
On Wednesday, 22 May, ESOMAR and NewMR are holding a virtual book launch, where contributors to the book will explain the book’s mission, its content, and more about how you can be involved. Click here to find out more details and to register to attend.

So what do you think?

Declaration of interest, I am one of the Editors and Curators of the project (as was NewMR’s Ray Poynter) – Sue York

Apr 262013

I have spent the last couple of weeks in Australia as part of my role in Vision Critical University visiting a number of clients, and several of them have, or are in the process of, creating B2B insight communities. One of the great things about this sort of concentrated activity is that it encourages examination of the key issues, and this time that has included the question ‘why do people join online insight communities?’.

I think the key point that companies need to remember, when designing, creating and managing insight communities, is that most people only join a B2B community because they think there is something in it for them and/or their organization. Further, they only stay engaged if they believe they are actually gaining a benefit.

The benefits from being a member of a B2B community can be summarised as:

  1. Special access, including networking with others in the field.
  2. Growing the business through learning more
  3. Growing the business by shaping the future
  4. Reducing costs through learning more
  5. Reducing costs by shaping the future

A successful community does not need to offer all of these, but it needs to offer something. At the stage the community is created the prospective members need to have the benefits outlined to them, along with the scale of the commitment expected.

The community also needs to be engaging, but in the case of a B2B community, engagement is a necessary but not sufficient element.

As the community develops, the members will assess it on whether it delivers against its promises. Members will assess whether they have learned useful things (from the process, form each other, and from the client), whether they feel they have been listened to, and to what extent their feedback has shaped what the organisation does.