We all have bad habits. It’s a natural part of being human. I have a tendency to bite my nails and drink too much coffee (and only now realizing that those things may be related). We have to work on them consistently on a day to day basis to overcome them, and even then they pop back up again when we neglect our personal development. But what happens when bad habits exist industry wide? Who is responsible, or even capable, of overcoming systemic bad habits? They become so part of our status quo that we are blind to them. We don’t realize the potential that could be awakened if we simply acknowledged them and worked on a daily basis to change. Over the years, we’ve observed some common habits that market researchers have seemed to internalize. It’s frustrating to see it because we truly believe that market research is one of the keys to true revolution within a company. So I’m going to take this opportunity to call you out on them, market researchers. You know who you are! Here are three common mistakes that market researchers need to stop making:

1. Accepting their place. We’ve had years of experience working with market researchers on the client side, and one thing we see over and over again is this rampant inferiority complex. Market research is seen by many as grunt work, just one tool to help marketers in the more highly valued decision making process. It’s not big picture enough, and ultimately it just validates what we already know. This mindset could not be more off track. This is the age of consumer power, and market researchers have the power to channel, translate and package those forces to facilitate strategic decision making. Market researchers are, in effect, the conduit for strategic discovery – and they need to start acting like it and use their skills to demand a seat at the table.

2. Getting bogged down in the details. If you ask anyone to picture a market researcher, most likely their mental image would be pretty much the same: a quiet, analytical person who gets really excited about data. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Data is exciting. But where this picture gets counterproductive is when market researchers get so engrossed in the minutia of the data that they lose sight of the broader strategic objectives of their organization. A market researcher must walk the fine line between detail oriented scientist and big picture artist to have any hope of gaining credibility within the organization to be seen as more than just “a numbers guy/gal.”

3. Viewing innovation as a threat. This is an exciting time to be a market researcher. New methodologies and data sources are popping up everywhere, and the opportunity to add value to the organization through market research grows dramatically year after year. So why are these innovations so underutilized? Lots of reasons, for sure, but one thing we have observed is that innovation is often interpreted as a threat of replacement. And this is a valid concern. New technologies are designed to streamline the process to not only gather better insights but reduce the number of man hours required to capture that insight. But here’s another way to look at it: innovative technologies and methodologies liberate market researchers from their place as grunt workers and free up more time for strategic contributions.

Ellen Hart is a Senior Associate Consultant at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields.

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