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The role associations play for market researchers and customer experience practitioners

When Patricia Houston sought to meet marketing research professionals after grad school, her first stop was an industry association.

Houston, chief operating officer & founder of MMR LIVE, recognized associations represent an excellent opportunity to meet people within the industry, but it’s not just entry-level practitioners who benefit from associations.

“It’s not always the junior market researchers or customer experience practitioners that will benefit, more often than not it’s the mid-level or senior folks that need a boost,” she said.

She is an active participant in several associations, including the Southeast Chapter of the Insights Association, the Atlanta chapter of Women in Research (WIRe) and the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), and she recently joined the Atlanta chapter of Ladies that UX.

Houston participated in a Twitter chat (#MRXChat) hosted by Jake Pryszlak, founder of ResearchGeek, and Jamin Brazil, host of the Happy Market Research podcast. The discussion centered on associations, their benefit and how they might change in the future.

Here is more of what Houston had to say.

What are your top reasons for being a member?

There are two main reasons. The first is making new connections and uncovering opportunities that allow me to add value back into my existing network. The second is making a contribution to ensure our industry stays relevant.

When I joined the board of the Southeast Chapter of the Insights Association, I was looking to reconnect with market research professionals. After a career switch out of marketing, grad school, marriage and two kids, I knew I wanted to dive back in, and it was a great place to start!

It’s a much easier conversation to talk with a new industry contact about being involved in associations and possibly offer them something valuable, such as open speaker calls. It’s the ultimate ice breaker.

Are there additional offerings associations should provide?

I don’t think they need to offer more. What’s needed, in some cases, is better communication to members and the industry about the available resources, especially in the education and mentoring space. These organizations do a great job compiling resources; we just need to get them in front of the people who will benefit the most.

It’s not always the junior market researchers or customer experience practitioners that will benefit, more often than not it’s the mid-level or senior folks that need a boost: career development, personal development, team building. Soft skills are just as necessary as the technical ones.

Have you volunteered in a leadership role? If so, why?

Yes! And I highly recommend it. Being in a leadership role allows you to gain skills outside your day-to-day job. You get stretched as a true Jill-of-all-trades, and I know I’m better for it.

The biggest plus is it puts you at the center of things, and you can influence the direction the organization is going. That doesn’t mean it’s all on your shoulders, but you don’t have a voice if you don’t speak up!

If you are on the fence, just do it! Especially if you are just starting in your career. There’s always a committee to join, and I ensure you the board will be super receptive to your help!

Are associations doing an adequate job of attracting the next generation? What can they do better?

Yes and no. The groups I see with the most engaged next-gen participants are challenging the traditional association model, and I think that trend will need to continue.

Gone are the days of high dollar individual membership fees being the only way to sustain an organization; look at other funding models. Make the barrier to entry low and shift the burden to sponsors or more senior members who are at the stage to give back