Companies across the world spend millions and even billions of dollars exploring customer decision-making processes. These companies are attempting to measure how much price matters and how other specific features of a product or service matter when people are making a purchase. It's not to say all of this data is vital to guiding a business in the right direction with its marketing efforts but in a service-based industry, I argue, it really just boils down to people. When making a decision to hire a vendor or work with a consultant, people want to work with people they like.
This is why building your own professional brand in market research is so important. As time goes on in your career, you'll begin to build your own relationships with clients and these relationships transform from your company's relationship to your own. You'll carry more ownership in your processes and begin to understand forming good relationships with your clients is what advances your career better than anything else. Regardless of your title, you will always manage some aspect of your day-to-day work, whether it be your project, your client, or a team of employees. All employees should see themselves as owners of their work, and thus owners of their clients' projects.
Let's take a look at two different theoretical project managers in market research. If you were the client, regardless of price, benefits, or promises, who would I rather work with?
Here is a profile of Steve:
Steve works for a top market research firm in the country. He does only what is required at his job and rarely goes beyond his necessary duties. He is rarely accessible to clients and often goes hours, days, and sometimes forgets to respond to client requests. When writing his market research reports, he reports only on the data, and doesn't really spend much time on recommendations, interpretation, or speaking with client(s) to talk about action items from the research. He avoids providing client(s) updates on projects because he fears it will lead to more questions and more work. He views himself more as a person who executes the market research process for his client(s) rather than a consultant who guides his client(s) through the market research process.
Here is a profile of Marcy:
Marcy works for a small market research firm with only 4 employees. She continually keeps up with industry trends and openly calls and emails her clients to keep them up to date on new information. She makes herself readily available, answers phone calls, sends regular project updates through email, and promptly responds to all requests immediately by keeping a task list. She is extremely thorough in her communication with her client. She analyzes her market research reports in-depth and looks for opportunities to improve her clients' businesses. She pulls in relevant industry information and makes actionable recommendations as the clients' market research consultant.
How does Steve still have a job?
Obviously, from the two drastically different profile summaries above, you are probably first wondering how Steve still has a job? This is a rather drastic example, but you'll learn it really does boil down to people and the willingness to own projects. Some firms offer great capabilities and great experience, but if they do not have good people on staff to execute processes, it won't matter. How good you are at your job and how good you are with clients is what will separate you the most from other colleagues in the market research field. Companies filled with the Marcy's of the world are the ones that continually succeed and grow.