A Quantitative Researcher Braves the Wilds of Agency Life
Bringing my experience to a growing enterprise
For the first eight years of my career, I worked exclusively at market research firms, developing my knowledge of quantitative research at industry giants, small boutiques, and places in-between.
But when the pandemic arrived, I was ready to try something new. So in late 2020, I accepted an offer at my first marketing agency, Simon/Myers. Little did I know at the time, it was exactly the change that I needed.
Long before I joined, S/M had been tackling their clients’ business problems with a dedicated strategy-first approach. Fueled by quantitative and qualitative market research tactics (much of it provided by outside sources), S/M was delivering actionable solutions to their client partners. But when their workload started growing, they decided to bring these research tactics in house. That’s where I came in.
Early successes and challenges
As the agency’s new Quantitative Researcher, I was tasked with building out the department — no pressure, right? During my first year and a half, I developed a department roadmap, a menu of capabilities, and internal training materials. More importantly, I was able to grow S/M’s in-house strategic offerings. Knowing I’ve had a positive impact on the bottom lines of the agency and our clients is both inspiring and fulfilling.
But making the switch to agency life has presented some challenges, the first being new technology and software. Upon arrival, I had only used PC computers. So in true ad-agency form, S/M gave me a brand new MacBook. For the first few weeks, I struggled with navigation. How do I use my mouse? Where did my window go? But it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the quality and user-friendly interface of Apple products. I may even switch my Android to an iPhone!
Improved internal communications
While market research firms are using instant messaging platforms to communicate internally, they continue to rely heavily on Outlook. At S/M we use Slack. Like the MacBook, Slack has its own learning curve. But I appreciate not having an Outlook inbox overflowing with unread emails. Slack keeps me connected with all S/M team members, even those in other departments. It also allows me to share and access important documents easily, and in real time.
Then there is “agency speak,” which is different from the language of market research. For example, many of my fellow S/Myers didn’t know that in the quantitative research world, “DP” stands for “data processing.” Meanwhile, I’m still learning the terms for all the different types of in-store displays. A challenge for sure, but it has greatly strengthened my communication skills — not just within the agency, but with vendors and clients as well.
Different timelines, and more rewarding contributions
Generally, project timelines in market research are shorter than agency timelines. At market research firms things move quickly, with most projects lasting one to two months (unless continuous tracking is involved). At agencies, the research portion of a client initiative is just one piece of a longer process, with any given engagement spanning from several months to more than a year.
While I’ve had to adjust my thinking about project timelines, being at an agency means I get to see the impact of my work on the overall project, how it connects to the work of other departments, and ultimately, how it affects a client’s business. For these reasons and more, I’m thrilled that I made the switch. Now I just have to figure out this whole metaverse thing…