Kristi Zuhlke, CEO of KnowledgeHound, is a global consumer insights and strategy expert, who started her career at Procter and Gamble working on a variety of brands from Always to Gillette. Taking a leap of faith, Kristi made the decision to leave her corporate job to pursue her goal of starting her own company. With her passion for market research and its role as a strong component to the success of any business, she set out to create a tool that would enable consumer insights professionals, such as herself, to eliminate the countless hours spent digging for data so they could focus more time on influencing others with their research.
We recently sat down with Kristi to poke her brain on her career in market research and learn more about what she thinks it takes to drive change within an organization as a consumer insights professional.
Q: What helped you grow the most in your career?
A: “One word. Failing. To give context, I learned the most from when things aren’t going well and that can feel pretty scary to a lot of people. However the pattern is that most successful people in life are people who took big risks. Which means they often failed 10+ times before the one big success. Whether that was going for a promotion or making a big bet on a specific insights being the best direction for the company… It applies to most all business situations. So recognizing the feeling of failure as growth is something I needed to adjust to in order to succeed.”
Q: What role do you feel technology played in advancing your career?
A: “Technology played a critical role in helping me advance my career. In market research, the people who shine are the people who figure out how to find the most impactful insights that change the direction of the business and typically those insights aren’t sitting right in front of you. Investing in technology that is going to surface the insight that no one else thought of was important in advancing my career. I was one of the first consumer insights manager to take P&G’s proprietary iTracking technology to shop-alongs outside of the corporate walls of P&G, leading to the discovery of new packaging insights.”
Q: What 3 factors do you feel are the most important to getting a “seat at the table?”
A: "1) Understanding the business financials of the company that you work for. 2) Understanding how your work directly impacts the key success initiatives of the company. 3) Acting as a team vs. as an individual"
Q: Is there anything you feel you could have done differently in your time as a market researcher?
A: "I wish i would have networked more outside of my company with market research suppliers, other non-competitive brands, and innovative start-ups for inspiration."
Q: What trends do you see evolving in the market research industry that you think professionals looking to advance their career should keep an eye out for?
A: “Oh gosh. So many. The major one that is important to focus on is this polarization of skill sets. We’re moving much more towards higher demand in data analytics and data science. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, we’re in need of more deeper qualitative understandings. So if i were in market research today, I would decide if qual or quant was my passion and then I would take classes to deepen my expertise in one of these two areas.”
Q: If you were to jump back into your insights career tomorrow, what is the first thing you would do to ensure your success? (Other than implement KnowledgeHound of course 😉)
A: “I would create a self-service culture that understands the value of insights as a function that works on highly strategic business questions. This culture would understand the importance of being able to answer one-off questions independently, enabling my insights function to focus on the major strategic questions posed by the business.”
This last answer from Kristi is one that hit home with our team. According to key findings from Gartner's 2018 Marketing Analytics Survey, expensive, valuable talent (such as yourself!) is being wasted. The number one activity that companies reported this talent spending their time on was data wrangling.
"It turns out that companies’ top analytics talent may be underutilized. Nearly half of the leaders surveyed said some of their most expensive and experienced analysts spend their time preparing data to be analyzed rather than analyzing the data," Gartner reports.
While this work is necessary, it is not necessarily the work that will drive a business (or your career) forward. That's exactly where a solution like KnowledgeHound comes into play. With a Google-like search engine layered on top of all of your research data and on-the-fly visualization tools, teams are able to spend less time digging for data, and more time understanding it and developing breakthrough insights from it. If you're interested in learning more about how we can transform your team from data diggers to data explorers, schedule a time to chat today!