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Q&A with Ray Poynter, renowned market research expert and featured speaker at the 2015 Vision Critical Summit

A frequent speaker at the Vision Critical Summit, Ray Poynter always draws big crowds and consistently gets high praise from Vision Critical customers for his provocative, timely presentations. His talk at this year’s Summit will tackle actionable tips on how market research professionals can become even more valuable members of their company.

In our Q&A below, Ray shares what excites him the most about coming back to the Summit and provides his tips for market researchers who want to build their influence and credibility in today’s business landscape.

What is your favorite thing about the Summit?

The best thing about the Vision Critical Summit is listening to customers who are daily users of insight communities. It’s illuminating and inspiring to hear about the opportunities they see in their roles as well as the challenges they face and what’s changing in their world.  

Also, in the breakout sessions, I love talking with customers whom I haven’t met before. It’s also great to hear from people from different business sectors and finding out what challenges they have in their market.

What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the market research industry today, and why?

I think many market researchers are still not up to speed with how the world is changing. Many insight pros have this mentality that it’s sufficient to have a mastery of the tools.

For the most part, market researchers aren’t giving research users—executives and other stakeholders in the business who will use the insight we generate—what they what they need in order to make better business decisions.

You’re one of the top market research influencers in the world. What advice do you have for young MR pros who want to build their credibility in the industry?

There are three things I would recommend. The first is to know about the basics. Master the most common market research methodologies and approaches. Know about the classic market research mistakes and how to fix them.

Secondly, make sure you’re really good at something. That something could be anything: ethnography, survey design, scripting, analysis or moderating groups, for example. You need to be so good at something to the point that people would call you when they have that specific problem.

The third is that you have to be a great communicator. You need to be able to write effective emails, craft compelling proposals and deliver a convincing elevator pitch. You have to be able to put together a good, succinct, impactful presentation.

Great points. What suggestions do you have for MR pros who want to further develop their communication skills?

Look for other MR pros who possess these skills and then analyze why they’re effective. For example, if you’re watching a presentation and you’re really loving it, ask yourself why you’re enjoying it. If a colleague sends you emails that you consistently prioritize and that you find easy to understand, think about why his or her emails are effective.

Communication skills are always relevant, and you’ll need to continue to improve them over time. The best way to hone these skills is to look for and emulate great examples.

Recently you’ve written a lot about the need for insight professionals to take a more strategic approach to their roles. What do you think are the factors hindering some MR pros from evolving this way?

Market researchers tend to be risk-averse when they’re making recommendations. Often market researchers find it uncomfortable to stick their neck out and say, “do this, not that.” But risk-taking should be a core part of the modern market researcher’s skillset. Once you get all the available information, you have got to make a choice and recommend an option.

If we take customer-centricity as an example, it’s not enough to say, “some customers want this while some customers want that.” That’s a risk-free, two-handed approach. Strategic market researchers would  say, “here’s what customers are saying and this is what it means for you and here’s the best action to take.” Go a step further in your recommendations.

Of course, this is not to say that we shouldn’t calculate risks. But if we want to elevate the role of customer intelligence in the enterprise, we have to be comfortable taking a stance and occasionally being wrong. Taking risks is part of becoming true leaders in the organization.

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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