n DEAR EMERITUS n Dear Newbie: Betsy Bernstein Responds I love that you’ve contacted us emeriti and that we can all give you different perspectives. Just as all of us and our businesses are so different, so are our experiences. Here’s my take: Know who you are and what you are best at. Especially when you’re starting off, it’s tempting to take any project that comes over the transom. It’s money and experience, perhaps when both are in short supply. Not so fast, though. Do only what you’re best at and the work you want to be known for. With every project, you’re building a track record and reputation. I’m a qually through and through. I knew that, but in the early days I tried to help a client out and “do a little quantitative project.” Mistake! The project was done, but I wasn’t comfortable that it was really the best my client deserved. Our industry is small. Word of mouth travels. Do I think this “little quant project” ever hurt me? No. But would I take that chance again at doing something that’s not really in my wheelhouse and could potentially endanger my reputation? No. Add value to your clients’ requests. Think about what your client needs, not what they ask for. Understand their objectives before providing a recommended design or solution. An ask for “some focus groups” may not actually be the best solution. Smaller sessions may be better when each participant has a lot to reveal. IDIs may be a better option for communication checks. Building in a presession homework or discovery phase can help respondents be better prepared when they come into a session or to help winnow out respondents whose perspectives might seem less valuable (e.g., product rejectors in a positioning project). In-home interviews or shop-alongs provide context for research observations and make the respondent feedback fresher, as it’s in the moment and not just based on recall. Provide relevant context and push back on client requests where you know there’s a better option, and you’ll be valued as a thought leader. Have backups. And backups for the backups. It all started with a client suggesting that I be prepared to ask the same question different ways, in case I wind up with blank stares. I then learned that people communicate in different “channels” and may respond better to questions in their channel. Hence, questions such as “How do you Dear Emeritus, I am relatively new to the field of qualitative marketing research. I am hoping for a long and successful career in the profession. I’m learning while doing, and with all of the changes our industry has adapted, I’m sure I’m making some mistakes along the way. So, I’m turning to you for advice. Would you tell me about some of your lessons learned and successes in your research career? Thank you, Newbie in New Mexico Dear Emeritus Answers Newbie Researcher 46 CONNECTING. EDUCATING. ADVANCING.