Q&A: Mary Hurley, Shen Research Organization

On January 14, the AMA hosted a Marketing Research panel discussion featuring marketing research professionals from the Cleveland area. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Marketing Research is expected to outpace the growth of the American economy over the next ten years, in fact by upwards of 30% growth. Mary Hurley is a partner at Shen Research Organization, a decision-oriented market research consulting firm specializing in design, management, and analysis.

The following is a short Q&A exploring the purpose of the panel and her thoughts on the industry.

What do you do for Shen Research Organization?
I’m a partner in this boutique market research consulting firm, primarily working with clients who have qualitative research needs.

What were you looking forward to in bringing this panel together?
This was a panel discussion (not a conference) about what marketers need to know to effectively work with market researchers (either internal resources or external suppliers). 

Was this event just for market research professionals?
The discussion was aimed at marketers who need or want to learn about working effectively with market researchers.

Marketers benefited from the panel by learning about the various steps in the market research process, what information will be needed from them at the various stages, and how to work through this process with their research partners so that project goals are met and research budgets/timeliness adhered to.

What advice would you give to students or those who are marketers looking to make a career change?

People interesting in market research careers (whether they are just starting out, or changing from another field) should:

  • Learn about the field by talking to or shadowing market researchers working in various environments – corporate researchers, suppliers, and ad agency researchers.  Each element of the research community focuses on somewhat different issues and has different perspectives, so it’s good to identify the dimensions of the field and where your interests lie.
  • Be sure to have adequate academic preparation in statistics and its application to marketing/business questions, since most researchers begin their careers as “analysts.”  Knowledge of statistical packages (SPSS, SAS), as well as Excel is extremely helpful.
  • Have an understanding of marketing and business, in general, so that they’ll be conversant with the issues their clients must address and be better able to draw relevant conclusions from the data obtained through either qualitative or quantitative methodologies.
  • Take courses that help round out knowledge of market research techniques (quantitative, qualitative, research design etc.) as well as in related disciplines such as psychology and economics.

What have you seen as major changes in Market Research over the years?Market Research has changed in many ways over the past few decades.  Key changes include:

  • Many new tools for gathering (and analyzing) data, especially those that rely on the internet or mobile technologies
  • The speed with which research results are expected has increased.  This is partly due to the availability of technology that allows data to be collected/analyzed faster, and partly due to the need for decisions to be made more quickly.
  • However, the core of market research remains the same:  engage the customer/prospect for a product or service to learn how they think/feel/behave in reference to this product, analyze the data, and report the results (along with what they mean) to the decision makers.

What do you see as the trends in marketing research going forward?

One of the most interesting questions for the future of market research lies in what impact artificial intelligence and machine learning will have on the field.  As more and more data about people’s behavior/communication etc. is routinely collected, stored, and analyzed, there is likely to be less need for some types of research studies (e.g., trial and usage, certain types of tracking), since that data will already be available.  Depending on how sophisticated machine learning becomes, other aspects of market research may also be impacted.

The Cleveland AMA sponsors an annual Marketing Research Conference. This year’s conference will be held April 21st. Check back on our website in the near future for further details!

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