By Graeme Cade
I didn’t want to work in market research. Never thought I would.
I studied Engineering at University and worked at one of the world’s leading Engineering consultancies. And when I decided I wanted to focus on the bigger picture, I was in the very lucky position to be approached by a number of strategy consultancies and took a job with a boutique firm in London.
The work was interesting, varied and impactful. Just what I was looking for. So, when I decided that the company wasn’t quite right for me and I wanted to move on, my brief to the recruiter was simple: ‘find me a job in strategy at a company where I’ll want to stay’.
It was the recruiter who suggested I meet with Circle Research – a business-to-business market research agency. He knew it wasn’t explicitly what I’d been asking for (a strategy role) but from speaking to me he was sure that this company could offer what I was looking for.
He was right. I’ve been working at Circle since 2013 – the work ticks all the boxes (interesting, varied, impactful) and, just as importantly, it’s a fun and engaging place, working alongside fantastic colleagues.
So why hadn’t I thought of a career in market research before?
The root cause is one of an image problem. Speaking with peers at a couple of ESOMAR events recently, we began discussing whether or not we identify ourselves to friends as ‘market researchers’. The overwhelming response was ‘no’.
The problem is that it’s not a glamourous industry. Market researchers are (still) synonymous with accosting people on the streets with clipboards, or muddling together ramshackle groups to offer dubious advice to woeful Apprentice candidates. For uninformed clients, it’s a ‘tick box’ exercise to assure management that ‘we did some research so it’s ok’. Meanwhile, marketing and media agencies can view researchers as their ‘poor cousins’, who simply ‘dump a load of data’ that they (the intelligent, creative ones) then turn into value.
Not exactly a Hollywood advert.
And these perceptions aren’t entirely without cause. Ask any client to dig through their company’s files and it’s not hard to find a 100-page market research presentation where you’ve lost the will to live by the time you reach slide #5.
But this is changing. Agencies are improving; becoming more commercially-minded. They’re moving away from presentations that destroy the rainforest and instead becoming more focussed on the business value and storytelling. Less about ‘let’s ask some questions’; more about ‘how can we solve this challenge?’. Less about the data; more about the impact.
Arguably this is still happening too slowly. But it is happening. And at last the industry is gaining status, respect and recognition for the transformational value it can provide.
And this in turn presents a fantastic opportunity for any young professional with a passion for making an impact. In the right company, and with the right mindset, there’s an opportunity in market research for young talent to really shape your own destiny. To prove how your ideas and thinking can make a difference. To take clients – now open to the possibilities of market research – and show them how the potential can become a reality.
Market research may still not be top of the list of desired industries for graduates, but there’s a great opportunity out there for anyone willing to challenge the status quo and push boundaries.
Like so many of my peers, I never intended to enter the world of market research but I couldn’t be happier that I did. The question is, how can we turn this ‘accidental researcher’ profession into a fought-after, strategic career ambition?
By Graeme Cade, Circle Research
About Circle Research
Circle Research is a specialist business-to-business market research consultancy providing full service solutions to global clients from their London headquarters. Circle Research was named ‘Agency of the Year’ at the MRS Awards 2016. Find out more here: https://www.circle-research.com.