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The Marketing Research Process

The marketing research process consists of four key steps:
1. Defining the problem (or opportunity) and determining the present situation.
2. Collecting data.
3. Analyzing the research data.
4. Choosing the best solutions.

Let’s look at each of these steps.

It is important to know what an organization does well; it is also critical to know what it does not do so well. Marketing researchers should be given the freedom to help discover what the present situation is, what the problems are, what the alternatives are, what information is needed, and how to go about gathering and analysing data.

Obtaining usable information is vital to the marketing research process. Research can become quite expensive, so some trade-off must often be made between the need for information and the cost of obtaining that information.

Normally it is less expensive to gather information that has already been compiled by others and published in journals and books or made available online. Such existing data are called secondary data since you are not the first one to gather them. Often, secondary data do not provide all the information necessary for important business decisions. When additional, in-depth information is needed, marketers must do their own research. The results of such new studies are called primary data. One way to gather primary information is the observation method, in which trained people observe and record the actions of potential buyers.

A more formal way to gather primary data is to conduct a survey. Telephone surveys, online surveys, mail surveys, and personal interviews are the most common forms. Focus groups are another popular method of surveying individuals. A focus group is a small group of people (8 to 14 individuals, for example) who meet under the direction of a discussion leader to communicate their opinions about an organization, its products, or other given issues (Nickels, McHugh, and McHugh, 2002).

Marketers can now gather both secondary and primary data online. Using that research, marketing managers are ready to do what it takes to please consumers.

The data collected in the research process must be turned into useful information. Careful, honest interpretation of the data collected can help a company find useful alternatives to specific marketing challenges.

After collecting and analysing data, market researchers determine alternative strategies and make recommendations as to which strategy may be best and why. This final step in a research effort involves following up on the actions taken to see if the results were as expected. If not, the company can take corrective action and conduct new studies in the ongoing attempt to provide consumer satisfaction at the lowest cost. You can see, then, that marketing research is a continuous process of responding to changes in the marketplace and changes in consumer preferences.