When Worlds Collide: The Growing Responsibility of Data Ambassadors

A few years back I attended a meeting where a very large company’s social media director was giving a presentation on their methods, findings, and plans for the future of social. After the presentation, a few of us stuck around to shoot the breeze and network a bit. I struck up a conversation with the presenter, and shared who I was and that I was in market research. After I gave the ol’ elevator speech, she and her assistant both giggled and asked why in the world a market researcher would come to such a presentation. Not taking myself too seriously, I laughed along with them while in the back of mind I couldn’t help but think, “They’ll get it one day”.

Josh Pelham

Josh Pelham

Of the many fun challenges market researchers face, one of the most intriguing is how we our roles have changed with respect to the marketing process. Traditionally, market researchers have spent most of their time on opposite ends of the marketing process – beginning with research that drives strategy and then attempting to measure the impact of that strategy once it’s been executed. However, that world is changing and in many ways already has. In the same way mobile technology has evolved in the last 20 years to be meaner, leaner, and more accessible, so has the data driven world we operate in. That’s means that data can and should be included throughout the marketing process as opposed to the more segregated model.

This fundamental evolution has some very real implications on the increasing role market researchers will play in our hyper-connected data-driven world. One of those implications is working with people that are not like you in completely unfamiliar territory. This requires an understanding that goes much deeper, because the world around now requires your expertise in a way it didn’t before.

Here are three quick tips for making these cross-functional interactions more productive and beneficial:

Do It Like Patton

In this classic movie, four-star General George S. Patton (played by George C. Scott) is found reading a book by his German rival Erwin Rommel. The book was based on battles Rommel fought in during World War I. Patton goes on to compliment Rommel’s understanding of battle tactics and shows a new deeper understanding of he thinks. The rest as they say “is history.”

The point is to spend some time intentionally studying the practices of those who aren’t in market research, but may one day become one of your closest working colleagues. Take some time out of your busy schedule to study topics and people groups outside your comfort zone and normal realm of influence. Watch a video biography on art and “creatives” (here’s one: Art and Copy) or pick up a magazine on an area of business you’ve never really explored before. If you find yourself interacting with a different business unit like IT more often, try to study what makes them tick and what drives them crazy. As the old adage goes, “seek first to understand, then be understood.”

Don’t Assume Anything

While those closest to the data gold mines may understand their true value, don’t assume everyone else shares your knowledge or enthusiasm. You may find yourself justifying the importance of data-driven decisions to someone you thought already “got it” more often than you think. Perhaps you’ve had some of these conversations already.

I believe the barriers to accessing and displaying data in an understandable way are being broken down daily, but there are still those who will opt for the old school approach of shooting from the hip. Don’t be dissuaded – simply educate. Great marketing, and business for that matter, is as much about internal education as it is about external communication. If you can make this truth a part of your daily approach you will be better suited to help others see the value of the data driven marketing process and much less frustrated in the long run.

Remember Why You Belong

If you look at those we deem as the movers and shakers of today, they are both creative leaders and information consumers. Data is as much a part of the innovators life today as oxygen is to their lungs. Pinterest may never have been created had David Silbermann not looked at the data from his original product, Tote, to see that people really wanted to share and post things they liked rather than make impulse purchases. Data continues to help the world’s most innovative companies like Google and Facebook make improvement and groundbreaking innovations. It’s important to remember why you belong at the big boy table. It’s important to remember that true data driven innovation, education, and decision making will in the end justify itself.

The reason why you belong in this ever-increasing realm of responsibility and leadership is because you understand and believe in the truth that data represents. The people who can access, unfold, and explain data are by their very nature the gatekeepers to truth in marketing. Once you grasp that concept, you won’t have to look for a reason to justify your spot at the table; your ability to deliver truth to the marketing process will do that for you.

Remember that story I shared about the Social Media Director? Yeah. This is why I came.

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About Josh Pelham

Josh Pelham is a currently a Manager of Research at AMG Strategic Advisors, the research and strategy division of Acosta Marketing Group. As a career researcher, Josh has worked for both large and small research firms from the supplier side. He enjoys working with creative and innovative thinkers, as well as sharing his thoughts and observations on marketing, research, and design.

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