Data Stories: Leaders at Work is a weekly podcast brought to you by Audiense. Hosted by Rahul Jerome, founder of insight-intelligence.com, the series captures personal anecdotes and career highlights from some of the most talented and brightest minds in the research and insights industry.
In this episode of Data Stories: Leaders at Work, I talk to Michaela Mora, founder of Relevant Insights. Michaela has extensive experience in marketing research and, as a trilingual, she brings a unique, multicultural perspective to the research industry.
First, Michaela shares her journey in marketing research and how this has molded her today. She received her first master’s degree in psychology in Cuba and focused on the influence of mass media, which allowed her to step into the marketing industry arena – one of her main roles was on audience research in teenage and children programs. She then moved to Sweden and obtained a second master’s degree in public relations, where she found an interest in market research – this led to a position in the largest research agency in Sweden. Finally, she moved to the U.S., in which she received her third graduate degree.
After working at a few agencies, she focused on blending market research with UX research (user experience in the digital realm), in which she obtained a UX master certification. Michaela states that education was the common thread through which she evolved and developed into the researcher she is today. Pursuing higher education in each country she resided enabled Michaela to maximise her effectiveness while working in the field. This idea can certainly be substantiated by the extensive list of various reputable companies she worked for in the past: Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, Blockbuster Online, and Match.com, to name a few.
When asked about the various methodological name changes during her career, she nixes the notion that there are inherently “new” methodologies, rather these methods already existed as more broad systems. She further states that having a firm foundation of different methodologies and categories of research will help the researcher decipher the problem better and utilize the most appropriate method to find a solution.
In the next part, she sheds light on her time at Blockbuster and what she learned from the experience. Initially, Blockbuster opened a division to drive more subscribers to their version of a digital platform. Within 9 months of its launch, they gained over 1.5 million subscribers; however, when the new administration took over, they closed the division. Michaela mentions that one of Blockbuster’s downfalls was that they were more reactive to the changes taking place in the entertainment industry rather than being proactive to be more innovative than their competitors.
She provides a few key pieces of advice for smaller businesses that have the potential of being overshadowed by a monopoly business within the same industry:
Next, Michaela talks about how Relevant Insights started. Essentially, projects from various clients fell in her lap after Blockbuster closed, and her proficiency in market research enabled her to create a successful business, which was founded 14 years ago.
Michaela also mentions that the hardest part of her profession is to find ways to help clients see the need for research – people are often susceptible to making avoidable mistakes when making business decisions.
Afterward, Michaela lists several skills that are required to be a successful market researcher. First, she emphasizes that having a strong foundation of different methodologies and a high problem-solving ability are essential. She explains that it is imperative to first define the problem, then figure out a method that best solves the problem. Other key skills she provides are critical thinking and adopting the scientific method as a lifestyle. Michaela mentions that having a firm foundation in these will allow the person to guard against their own biases and will train the mind to rethink.
Finally, we discuss what traits should be considered for potential clients seeking a freelance market research practitioner. Michaela recommends that the client should search for a researcher who not only values quality but also fully understands their role for the client – different clients have different needs, so the researcher must be told the client’s exact needs. And finally, she reiterates that seeking a practitioner with a firm understanding of various research methodologies will lead to more accurate analyses.
The full version of the podcast with Michaela Mora can be listened here: