I have a confession to make. When I left the market research field, I was a bit burned out and did not think I would ever come back. I’d worked on the supplier side as well as the client side. I was employed by both big companies and small companies. And I thought I was all done. I left to spend more time with my small children, and ended up with a career detour into sales and sales management, working from home. Then, my small children were big children, and the idea of a more regular work week with weekends off sounded very attractive. I found the market research world is indeed a small world, re-connected with colleagues, and found myself back on “planet MR” in short order.
Many things had changed over a decade, but I was surprised by what I discovered that I missed during my ten years away.
1. The rush of excitement and anticipation when you receive a new set of data tables. Fresh, new data tables. One banner, maybe even two if you are lucky. All the new insights to be uncovered, the hypotheses to be proved (or disproved.) I must sound like a data nerd when I say I just can’t wait to read them, highlighter and sticky notes in hand.
2. The language of market research. You, yourself. Unaided and aided awareness. Derived importance. Ending a question with “or not.” I did not use these phrases for more than ten years!
3. That frisson of fear when you start a focus group. You have a well thought-out discussion guide. You have clients with big expectations in the back room. And you have ten strangers with whom you want to quickly build trust and rapport. Sometimes it is a little scary, but it’s a good kind of scary.
4. Eating M&Ms in the dark. Speaking of focus groups, seriously, what is more fun than observing consumers while you eat unlimited snacks and Chinese take-out and lose all sense of time? Yes, you do get to eat M&Ms in the dark at the movies, but focus groups are more like live theater. You never know what you will hear or see next, and you are allowed to talk to your neighbor and use your cell phone.
5. That happy, “sunbeam breaking through the clouds” feeling when you realize you’ve helped a client learn something really new. I’d forgotten how great it feels when you watch a product progress from a concept to a market reality, in part because of your research contributions. Having a Vice President of Marketing muse, “we never thought about it that way before” – it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
What would you miss if you left our field?