This post is an excerpt from our report, The Burtch Works Study: Salaries of Marketing Research Professionals 2017. Download the 2019 report for free here, which includes updated compensation and demographic data on marketing researchers across the US, and how marketing research salaries vary by job level, region, industry, and client- vs. supplier-side.
As the marketing research field continues to evolve, we’ve noticed several shifts in the hiring market, as well as in employers’ hiring processes. Firms have been placing more value on soft skills, and over the past few years we’ve seen assignments and other evaluation methods become commonplace in the interview process. This year, we wanted to explore several of the major trends in the hiring market, as well as how both marketing researchers and employers looking to hire them can address these trends.
1. Research & Insights Salaries Remain Mostly Steady
At all career levels, salaries were fairly steady, with medians only shifting by single-digit percentage points. After more significant salary fluctuations during the market disruptions a few years ago, this year’s data show again that salaries have mostly stabilized.
Implications for marketing researchers: With salaries fairly stable, it has become even more important for researchers to demonstrate their worth if they are looking for a salary increase. To increase their market value, researchers should be able to craft a compelling story illustrating why they deserve the salary they’re seeking and highlight how their specific experience may benefit the team.
Implications for employers: With marketing research salaries stable, employers shouldn’t need to adjust salary bands significantly to accommodate research talent. However, it’s important that salary ranges are in line with the market, and with figures remaining relatively steady, now might be a good time to reevaluate how your salary targets stack up.
2. Movement Toward Lean Teams Influences the Hiring Process
The shift towards leaner research and insights teams has had several effects on the hiring process. For example, many employers are placing a greater emphasis on soft skills, keeping in mind that within a leaner team, each individual will have a greater impact on the group dynamic. As such, we’ve seen an increase in the use of evaluation methods such as assignments, tests, exercises, and personality/workstyle assessments that are meant to gauge potential team members more thoroughly before bringing them on board.
For researchers: Assignments and assessments have become a common component of the hiring process at many firms, and should be taken seriously. Time commitments can vary, so it’s important to allot enough time to complete them to the level of dedication that you would give to your role at the new company. This is a critical stage for many companies, and they consider it a reflection of your work.
For employers: In order for assignments to be effective, it is prudent to tailor tests and exercises to the discipline and the specific role. Using a one-size-fits-all strategy for all new hires may not provide enough clarity about what a researcher can bring to the table. Candidates will also view the assignment as a reflection of the company and role they’re applying to, so ensure that the instructions, time commitment, and task give candidates the right impression.
Related to our previous point, the importance of leaner team dynamics also means that researchers with broad experience and exposure to a wide variety of research tools and methodologies continue to be highly valuable team members. Researchers who have experience across different industries or using a variety of tools can bring unique perspectives to the table. Having a diverse set of backgrounds within a research team can open up fresh ways of thinking and new avenues to approaching problems and using research to tackle business questions.
For researchers: Make an effort to learn new tools and methodologies throughout your career, and whether you’re a client- or supplier-side researcher, try to gain experience across a variety of categories and industries. Having all of your expertise fall into a single area may become a detriment to your marketability if the opportunities in that area wane in the future. Lifelong learning is critical in a field where technology and methodologies are constantly evolving and impacting the industry.
For employers: Be open to looking beyond your industry in order to build a richer and more diverse team. Experiences and methodologies are often transferable from one industry to another, so researchers coming from other categories can bring a fresh perspective. Considering candidates from different verticals may increase your potential talent pool considerably as well.
4. Industry Shifts Continue to Impact Marketing Research
It’s no secret that the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry, among others, continue to feel the impact of a shifting market. As we’ve pointed out over the past several years, many CPG firms have downsized their vast teams or otherwise reorganized personnel. One outcome of this change has been that many client-side researchers are now seeking opportunities in other industries, or with research suppliers, which could possibly have an effect on supplier-side salaries in the long-term.
For researchers: If you’re a client-side researcher and you find yourself in a company or industry that’s under strife, it might be time to consider a change – perhaps back to the supplier or consulting side, or to explore a new industry. Since researchers with broad experiences can be highly marketable, what better time to broaden your horizons by shifting to a new industry or taking on a new challenge?
For employers: For supplier-side employers, you might notice an influx of client side candidates knocking at your door. Bringing in a researcher from the client side may add differentiated skillsets and insider perspectives to your work. If you are able to capitalize on existing relationships they have with potential clients, it could help to justify their higher base salaries.
Now more than ever, strategic and proactive career management is paramount for researchers hoping to navigate the shifts in the hiring market. For employers, it is important to understand what your employees’ career priorities are, as well as the hiring market, in order to increase your chances of landing top talent.
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