On Being a Business Person First, a Marketing Researcher Second

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Attending a conference for CFO’s and other financial types, I felt like duck out of water. But only for a few minutes.

As a career researcher, I felt it would be a waste of time to sit through four hours of presentations on being a more effective CFO or comptroller. Nevertheless the situation seemed worth the effort and off I went.

Well, the theme of all the speakers was basically the same and could apply to almost any staff function. It particularly hit home to me.

Simply put, to get a meaningful “seat at the table” it’s imperative to behave first as business person and secondly as a purveyor of numbers. For the financial executive this means having less an eye toward the intricacies of the balance sheet and more of an eye toward what the numbers mean for the business. Toward what actions they suggest.

The CFOs and headhunters who spoke implored the audience to learn their trade well and then become specialists. This meant that once they achieve success in providing their company numbers that can be trusted, they should turn their attention to what the numbers suggest.

The headhunter was particularly forceful in setting down the gauntlet. He said, “Companies hiring for top financial positions assume a level of technical competence. What they are looking are financial stars. Executives who can take information and synthesize it, interpret it and then provide a strong voice that will help their company make important strategic decisions.” He went on to say, “That being able to find a specialty in say M & A, operations, marketing or even human resources is essential in making it to the top.”

Marketing researchers should take note as the analogies are many. It is indeed less and less about the data we generate and more and more about providing direction.

In an era of exploding information, where management is inundated with numbers, the researcher who can interpret, synthesize and provide creative direction for making important strategic decisions will become a superstar.

Although obvious to what we probably think we do, it’s worth reinforcing. We will achieve our ultimate success if we start with a strong view of the business decisions that must be made. Then we can think about our questionnaires and all the rest.

Bob Kaden
The Kaden Co.
Bob Kaden is the author of Guerrilla Marketing Research and president of The Kaden Company, a marketing research consultancy that works with clients in planning and applying research to make more money. He is a frequent lecturer and trainer in the areas of creativity and marketing research processes.

1 COMMENT

  1. Robert –

    As a fellow career stakeholder (customer and employee) market research professional, I absolutely support your key point. At the end of the day, we make our clients successful – and earn a strategic partner role – by designing and delivering studies which help drive insightful, actionable, monetizing results.

    Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
    Vice President and Senior Consultant
    Harris Interactive Loyalty

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