The main focus when working in market research is to help companies understand what types of products people want, determine who will buy them and at what price. Key to the roles is gathering statistical data on competitors and examining prices, sales, and methods of marketing and distribution, and then analyse the data on past sales to predict future sales. For many roles you need to be quite savvy with Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, whereby the first is used for analysing the data and the second for producing reports and presentations.
In some cases the job involves devising methods and procedures for obtaining the data that is needed by designing surveys to assess consumer preferences. While a majority of surveys are conducted through the Internet and telephone, other methods may include focus group discussions, mail responses, or setting up booths in public places, such as shopping malls, for example.
Often names can be quite confusing with the market research world. In one company a Research Analyst can be bottom of the career path whilst in others this is seen as a quite advanced role. The below list is therefore a generalisation of most common roles within market research (excluding data processing and field roles). Based on firsthand experience, a rule of thumb can be is that progressing from one role to the next takes between 1.5 to 3 years, depending on the company, training & education and drive of a person.
Junior Research Executive / Trainee / Analyst
Most common for graduates & student placements. The role is mainly focussed on reporting, data control and administration. Most likely in this role you will have support from a manager and depending on the team a director and / or more experienced executives. If you work for an agency it is most likely that you will start visiting clients after several months in the job, under guidance of the manager or director.
Some examples of tasks:
- Design/Methodology – Operationalising research questions, design and administration of questionnaires
- Data Management – Quality assurance and management, associated with survey data collection
- Data Analysis – Data cleaning, weighting, assessments & primary analysis
- Report Writing – Evaluate economic trends, spending habits, and demographics to determine market trends.
(Senior) Research Executive
Many day to day tasks are similar to the junior or trainee role. The difference is that you will have ownership of reporting / project and become more self reliant. You will be giving the responsibility of projects from start to finish including taking briefs, questionnaire design, reporting and delivering of insight.
When working for an agency it is possible that you will be starting giving parts of presentations or get the responsibility of training / workshops for the client. Other areas that will develop during this time is supporting the manager in sales targets and writing proposals. In some cases you might get the responsibility for generating revenue or extending client contracts.
As you now have experience working in market research, you will be expected to “think outside the box” and use your established experience to break through the boundaries.
Project / Account Manager
By this stage you will be able to give presentations to clients, work autonomously and become the main point of contact for clients as well as internal teams that you work with. You might have some executives in your team that you have the responsibility for to train and guide.
A most likely requirement for the role is you will be adept at winning business from initial meetings set up by yourself or the business development manager. You should also be able to discuss multiple aspects and impacts of issues and project them into the future.
As account manager working for an agency the job role also involves negotiating client contracts, budget responsibilities and generate new businesses.
Research / Insight Manager
Although this is quite similar to account manager role, the focus of an insight / research manager is on the actual analysis and management of data / projects.
Vital job requirements include direct experience in the area of work (quantitative / qualitative / continuous data etc), an ability to generate insights and the management of multiple, multi-disciplinary projects at once with a strong sense of time management.
Associate Director / Consultant
This role involves providing direction and assist with the development of the team, designing and managing projects with a high level of autonomy and responsibility.
Key aspects of the role are taking projects from kick off to completion, managing a small team to coach them to help them achieve their potential, account management of several clients, and contributing to business development.
Director / Head of Research
By this stage you should be a proven leader with a real in-depth knowledge of global consumer brands and how they work, delivering world class research and a dedicated level of service. Some other tasks are:
- developing revenue
- ensuring the development and growth of other members in your team
- evolving the research strategy for the business