“Hire for passion, train for skill” is advice often given to businesses about potential hires. And that is truer for marketing research analysts than for any other category of hire. Clearly it goes beyond number crunching, to being able to relate those number back to the marketing challenge or business problem at hand. Critical thinking skills are obviously part of the mix. But that is still not enough. So what is it that makes a marketing research analyst great?
Here are some characteristics that many great marketing research analysts have in abundance:
- Have a natural curiosity about the world, people, and how they make decisions is indispensable in an analyst. Asking questions are key to great analysis. Additionally, data analysts must have the ability to move comfortably and seamlessly between the abstract and the concrete to derive critical insights from their work.
- Interpersonal and communications skills. Marketing research Data analysts must be able to work with others, to understand different perspectives, and to communicate often complex theories and concepts.
- Cultural awareness. A good analyst is not content to be shut away from the world. Analysts must be “in and of our world” so they can bring that holistic perspective to their analysis and the data.
- Empathy. Great analysts can put themselves in the shoes of the respondents, as well as in the shoes of the manager who will eventually use the research. This gives the marketing research analyst the ability to see the connection between consumer data and management challenge.
- Healthy respect for assumptions. A great analyst always views assumptions with a healthy skepticism – especially those that are not yet proven.
- Healthy respect for simplification. They walk the fine line between simplification and oversimplification. Without a doubt, simple answers are better than complex ones – unless that aren’t right.
- Ability to multitask. Most analysts are expert jugglers working on many projects simultaneously. The key is that they understand which tasks are in line for which projects, and they don’t get confused.
- Tolerance for ambiguity. Marketing research analysts often find that the results are not clear, or even conflict with each other. They must expect that, and not be deterred from continuing to seek the connections that clarify.
- Imagination and Creativity. Ability to bring a fresh perspective to any situation, without being taken in by what’s new and shiny but not valuable.
- Methodical, organized and detail oriented. A good analyst has a specific, methodical approach and stays on track.
- Capable of finding trends and themes. The ability to spot patterns in data takes a unique eye. The ability to synthesize these patterns into insights – often across projects – is real
Add to this experience, in statistics and mathematical processes, software, and marketing, and you have the makings of a truly superb marketing research analyst. Sound kind of like a magical beast that doesn’t exist in the real world? Perhaps – but remember that many of these characteristics are not that unique or rare, and you can then always train for skill.