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Tracy Dion

Spring EAB Meeting: Researchers Are Decision Makers

by Tracy Dion Monday, March 25, 2013

One of the greatest things about the A.C. Nielsen Center is our external advisory board (EAB), which keeps us connected with what is happening in the industry. Each semester our EAB meets on campus with faculty and students for updates on the center and our program, but also to offer us feedback on what is happening in marketing research for their respective industries.

This semester’s meeting commenced on Thursday, March 14, and a prominent theme throughout comments from—and in our discussions with—board members is that our role as marketing researchers is also about being strong decision makers. We have been hearing from the board since our summit this past October that the lines between brand management and marketing research are blurring. Our job as marketing researchers is not about informing others so that they can make decisions, but about collecting information and making the right decisions ourselves. Even if one is not explicitly tasked with being the ultimate decision maker, how we as marketing researchers collect and distill information has serious impact on how decisions are made.

This largely boils down to courage and influence. Our board was asked what they look for when hiring candidates and what is takes to succeed, based on their experience, in marketing research. They mentioned attributes such as the ability to synthesize data and extract insights, which are still hugely important, but what came up over and over again as being necessary for the future is courage and influence.

Being a strong decision maker or decision leader requires navigating a complex, politicized environment. This is why courage and the ability to sway others are so important. Even if you know the right course of action, you must get everyone else to rally with you if you want your decision to be fully realized. Meanwhile, standing up and defending your position—especially when it is against the status quo or is not something many will want to hear—takes a courageous person. To be truly effective and ensure that your role as a marketing researcher is about making a meaningful impact on the business, you must be brave and influential.

There were many wonderful discussions from our EAB meeting about other topics like coursework, recruiting, emerging research techniques, and the like, but this idea of courage and influence really stuck with me because these are things not so easily taught. However, knowing how important such skills are makes it clear that one must practice and make an effort to exhibit these attributes continuously if you want to be truly successful in your career.