If you’re like me, when you think Nashville you think of live music, BBQ, and Market Research. Last month the market research world descended upon Nashville to attend TMRE. For those of you who missed out, here are three takeaways you can apply today.

Market Research is Sales

Turns out, we’re not just researchers. Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human, spoke about his research around the sales profession. Pink started by asking all sales people in the audience to raise their hands – only a handful of people did so. Not too surprising given the audience consisted of market researchers. According to Pink’s research, when asked what comes to mind when people hear the word sales, most people think of annoying, pushy, or even dishonest. Sales has an image problem.

Like it or not, we are all in sales in some form. Information is easily accessible from our own pockets—our cellphones. There’s been a shift in almost every market from ‘buyer beware’ to ‘seller beware.’ Why? Because customers have access to more information than ever before and in many cases, they actually know more than the seller.

This is where researchers come in. We now have the tools and the know-how to stay on top of the market, quickly discover new knowledge, and shape the insights that inform and influence consumer decisions. But before we can do that, it’s our job to sell the insights that we uncover to our internal stakeholders, or these understandings will never see the light of day.  In short—we are in sales.

The Big Picture

In his presentation, Malcolm Gladwell focused on an interesting concept from his latest book, David and Goliath. He spoke of the Inverted U and the fact that we are often overly focused on one part of the curve. He explained the Inverted U like this:

“There’s the left side, where doing more or having more makes things better. There’s the flat middle, where doing more doesn’t make much of a difference. And there’s the right side, where doing more or having more makes things worse.”

Gladwell gave two examples:

  • Drinking a glass of wine a day
  • Students in the classroom

One glass of wine per day is good for your health, but at some number of glasses per day the positive affects turn negative. The same goes for students in a classroom. Smaller class sizes are effective, but at a certain point a class size is too small to have the benefit of diverse viewpoints.

So what does this mean for market research? As market researchers we can improve our analysis and understanding by taking a step back to see the big picture. Focusing only on what’s directly in front of us can lead to myopic thinking. Understanding the full spectrum of how inputs affect outputs will improve our decision making.

Market Researchers are Empowered

As I spoke with market researchers and vendors, I think we all felt a major shift in the market research industry. In the past, most research was outsourced to full-service market research firms that would complete a project from A to Z in a few weeks’ time. Today’s researchers no longer need to outsource this activity. Instead, the technology exists to easily design a research project in-house, distribute the study, and get results back in days rather than weeks.

The technology to do more targeted research, faster and cheaper is at our disposal and it’s our job to determine how to translate data into insights. At TMRE there were multiple presentations about internal market researchers who have successfully turned their departments from cost centers into strategic insights functions. This means that in-house market researchers have the chance to get a seat at the table and influence key business strategies now more than ever before. We are empowered, and it’s a good time to be a market researcher.

Until We Meet Again

It was great to have the chance to speak face-to-face with so many customers and peers. That’s really what makes these events so worthwhile!

We hope to meet many more of you at future events. To see where Qualtrics will be next, visit our events page. And be sure to keep in touch with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.