Lessons from the school of hard knocks and hangups

Market research can be a lot of fun, especially if you can develop a rapport with interviewees and maintain a sense of good humour. It’s an abysmal slog when you hear the sound of a receiver clicking into its socket… 50 or 60 times.

I’ve learned over the past few days something that common sense should have told me weeks ago: if you’re doing a market research survey, never use the words “market,” “research,” or “survey.” These words are subconscious cues that compel anyone hearing them to hang up the phone without a second thought. They are poisonous.

I owe these insights to a client of mine who runs an independent market research firm and recently hired me to do interviews with owners, managers, and actors within a segment of the North American beauty industry. She told me that people respond very negatively to certain words because they are afraid of being pestered or bored, so you have to make it sound exciting and forward-thinking.

Now when someone picks up the phone, I say “I’m a freelance writer and I’m putting together a report on trends in your industry. I was wondering if you’d have time for an interview.” Lo and behold, two interviews materialized today, my work is finished, and I can take my daughter to her friends’ house for a visit without picking my fingers or fiddling with my Blackberry. How about that?

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About Alex Colgan

I am a political theory student, freelance writer, and father living in Yarmouth, N.S.
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