I’m a big fan of The Great British Baking Show—a tv series following the trials and tribulations of amateur bakers vying to be named the UK’s best baker. Each episode, the bakers tackle a different skill with increasing difficulty as the competition unfolds.
For those unfamiliar with the delightful show, the second portion of the competition, called the Technical Challenge, requires bakers to make an unfamiliar recipe with scant instructions. They must leverage their baking prowess and creativity to successfully make the recipe and impress the judges, Paul and Prue (or Mary, depending on which season you’re watching). Meanwhile, the competition is timed—which can be really tricky when baking time is unspecified.
As a custom market research project manager, I empathize with these contestants. Here are three ways the Technical Challenge is like managing a market research project:
- It's possible contestants have come across the Technical Challenge bake subject or recipe before. But even if they’re somewhat familiar, the recipes always have some unique element—making them feel new. Similarly, as a project manager you’ve probably done your fair share of customer journey, segmentation, or optimization. And while you may be an expert in each topic and approach, every project is 100% customized and will almost always include “new” elements. Maybe the sample is unique, or your client has a very specific business objective. Whatever it is, you’ll need to approach each project armed with your industry experience and thinking cap. Even with brand trackers which are usually repeated, each wave is unique and poses different circumstances. There are no exact prescribed instructions in market research—you must be innovative and open to new challenges.
- Ingredients are provided during the Technical Challenge, but not always with an explanation of how to properly integrate them into the bake. In a new research project, research objectives, desired business outcome, and potentially a sample list, may be the “ingredients” provided, but you as the project manager must successfully incorporate these components to uncover actionable insights that meet clients’ (or judges’) needs and expectations. While a crude “recipe” exists for research (e.g., Step 1: Questionnaire Development, Step 2: Fielding, Step 3: Analysis, Step 4: Reporting, Step 5: Delivery and consultation to client) it’s up to the research team to use their industry knowledge and experience to successfully account for all "ingredients."
- A fielding period, like the bake time in a Technical Challenge, may not be explicitly specified at the onset of a project. Therefore, you must use your best judgment and expertise to determine the length of fielding. Much like the bakers watching the oven, you must carefully monitor the metaphorical research oven—response rates, panel entries, etc.—until you’ve achieved desired results.
Unlike the British cake bakers and pastry makers, research project managers are backed by a dedicated team that is integral to the success of each project. From the Advanced Analytics team and Senior Consultants with robust industry expertise, successful custom market research projects are a team effort.
Of course, there are a few more differences (no worries about soggy bottoms or overbaked Genoese sponge for example).
At the end of the Great British Baking Show, the bake is eaten, contestants are judged, a winner is announced, and that’s that. But as market researchers, we don’t just deliver a final report and the show ends. A successful initiative means socializing the findings, conducting follow-up discussions, and more--being true, consultative strategic partners to our clients.
Still, when our clients tell us how our insights and recommendations have made a concrete difference in their business—well that’s as good as a Paul Hollywood handshake.
Youme Yai is a Project Manager at CMB who is on a search for the perfect chocolate chip cookies recipe (suggestions welcome!)