No one wants to shoot in the dark. That’s why, when deciding how to target their products, senior executives want access to the most informative data available. How do they procure it? By hiring market and marketing research specialists.
“There’s a huge movement for marketing intelligence,” says Michael Giordano, marketing technology agent at Aquent, a marketing and creative staffing agency in Boston. Using information about customer activity and qualitative data from focus groups, companies can determine which new products and services are necessary, and where to improve. “This research is not about manipulating consumers,” says Dan Quirk, marketing manager of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review, an industry trade publication in Minneapolis. “It’s about finding out what they want.”
If you’re interested in market and marketing research, here’s a guide on how to get a job.
Market vs. Marketing Research
According to Quirk’s, market researchers analyze market conditions -- i.e., how many pizzas are sold in northwest New Jersey. Marketing researchers, on the other hand, analyze a company’s marketing efforts, asking questions like: Does the packaging catch the eye of consumers walking down a crowded aisle? Both are in demand and can offer salaries ranging between $30,000 and $300,000.
There are two ways to roll in this industry. You can be a math whiz, doing all the statistical work and analyzing results. Those folks need strong quantitative and computer skills. The qualitative side involves asking questions and conducting focus groups. These people are personable and listen well. Both types must have strong communication skills.
Break into Market and Marketing Research
Competition for research jobs is fierce, and certain qualifications must be met. For entry-level positions, an undergraduate degree is necessary, with those in statistics and sociology holding more weight. Both subjects provide tools to help understand consumer behavior. “Traditionally, a lot of researchers earned degrees in social science, and then they found out they didn’t want to be a professor,” says Brad Bortner, principal analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That’s why they end up conducting research, he adds. For senior-level positions, MBAs can signal that the candidate possesses both analytical and leadership skills to employers.
If you’re looking to change careers, Quirk suggests you volunteer by leading a focus group for nonprofits. You can also start on the provider side of research and work your way up to brand name-companies, he says.
Giordano suggests you refrain from working in multiple industries and work toward becoming a specialist in one.
Winning a Market Research Interview
On your marketing resume, present yourself clearly and show how your education and skills make you a good match for a market or marketing research role. Showing you have some level of both quantitative and qualitative skills is helpful, as is your ability to communicate and easily translate data. If expressed clearly, these qualities could help you land the interview.
For junior-level interviews, potential employers will likely test your honesty and ethics, says Bortner. Make sure you are enthusiastic at the interview.
Senior-level candidates should be prepared for case-study questions, he says. The ability to quickly analyze studies will be a requirement.
“Being able to think is useful in any interview,” says Bortner.
Tips to Ace the Interview
- Do Your Research: It’s essential you research the company before the interview. Know current research techniques and the big players in the industry.
- Make Suggestions: Consider what kind of research might be most useful given the challenges the potential employer faces. Be prepared to explain how the results of your research can be worked into the company’s strategy.
- Provide Examples: “If you don’t have war stories of your own yet, arm yourself with stories about companies that have used market [or marketing] research,” says Bortner. Show the potential employer you’re in the know about the kind of research that might improve his bottom line.
Learn more about marketing careers.