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It’s been said that information is power. This simple cliché underscores the market control and business
success that information yields. Marketing research is about collecting information. While it applies to a
wide range of situations, marketing research gives decision-makers the information they need to find
solutions to business problems, such as the following
 How satisfied are customers with your product and service offering?
 How will customers react to a decision to change a price or product?
 What are service representatives hearing from customers?
 What responses to competition will bring you success in a given market?

Simply put, the solution to most business problems can be found through marketing research. While the
foundations of research have existed for thousands of years, technological advances during the last
century have made a wider range of studies possible. Increased Internet access in the last 15 years has
made research available at a much lower cost and, therefore, more accessible to organizations of all
sizes. As a result, the research field has exploded with new opportunities and methodologies, and
organizations have more information at their disposal than ever before.


Think of marketing research as a search for information that will help you succeed in capturing market
share. To begin, let’s consider the differences between fundamental and applied research. Fundamental
research seeks to extend the boundaries of knowledge in a given area and doesn’t necessarily solve your
immediate problems. Nevertheless, it has useful applications. It reveals information and relationships
that could be useful at a later date. For example, The Green Yogurt Company conducted fundamental
research about consumer preferences for certain combinations of fruits, nuts, and caramel that differ in
sugar type and strength of sweetness. Applied research gathers information to solve a specific
problem or set of problems. For instance, customers engaged in a blind taste test would respond with
what they specifically liked or disliked about a new yogurt product compared to a competitor’s product.
You would use this information to tune your business plan, focus your advertising campaign, or improve
your product.


Marketing research focuses on understanding the customer, the company, and the competition. These
relationships are at the core of marketing research. Companies must understand and respond to what
customers want from their products. However, this relationship is always influenced by competitors and
how their products are received by your market. Thus, you must clearly identify the customer, company,
and competition before developing a research project. There are several important factors you must
consider before you begin, including:
• Your customers and competition
• Awareness and image of your product
• Product usage
• Undiagnosed problems with your product
• Customer desires and needs for new product development


1 - MARKET DESCRIPTION SURVEYS: Determine the size and relative market share of the market.
Provide key information about market growth, competitive positioning and share of market.

2- MARKET PROFILING-SEGMENTATION SURVEYS: Identify customers and non-customers, and why

they are or are not your customers. Often a descriptive market segmentation and market share analysis.

3 - STAGE IN THE PURCHASE PROCESS / TRACKING SURVEYS: Where is the customer in the adoption
process? Shows market Awareness – Knowledge – Intention – Trial – Purchase – Repurchase of the

4 - CUSTOMER INTENTION - PURCHASE ANALYSIS SURVEYS: Customer motivation to move from

interest in the product to actual purchase. Key to understanding customer conversion, commitment
and loyalty.

expectations? Attitudes formed about the product and/or company. Improve ads, customer
conversion, commitment and loyalty.


formed about the product and/or company. Especially for high priced consumer goods with long
decision and purchase processes.

7 - NEW PRODUCT CONCEPT ANALYSIS SURVEYS: Appropriate in the initial screening of new product
concepts. Likes and dislikes, acceptability and likelihood of purchase are especially useful measures.

for new product descriptions, graphics, or prototypes. Yields market share estimates for alternative
concept configurations.

9 - HABITS AND USES SURVEYS: Understanding usage situations, including how, when and where the
product is used. May include a real or virtual pantry audit.

10 - PRODUCT FULFILLMENT SURVEYS: Evaluation of promised attribute and feature benefits (both
tangible and intangible). Are expectations produced by advertising, packaging, and product appearance

11 - COMPETITIVE PRODUCT AND MARKET POSITIONING: “Best Practices” studyof “How does the
market view us relative to the competition?” Compares attributes and benefits of the product.

12 - BRAND EQUITY SURVEYS: What is psychological value that a brand holds in the marketplace?
A composite of brand awareness, brand quality, brand associations and brand loyalty measures.

benefits and values associated with and portrayed by an advertisement. Means-end analysis is often
part of this type of study.
14 - ADVERTISING MEDIA AND MESSAGE EFFECTIVENESS SURVEYS: Identifies the impressions, feelings,
and effectiveness in moving the respondent to a desired goal (increased awareness, product
information, trial, repeat purchase).

15 - SALES FORCE EFFECTIVENESS SURVEYS: Sales activities, performance and effectiveness in producing
the desired and measurable effect or goal. Often measured in a 360 degree survey completed by the
sales person, the client (evaluating the sales call) and the supervisor responsible for evaluating the
sales person.

16 - SALES LEAD GENERATION SURVEYS: (1) Timely use and follow-up of sales leads, (2) Qualifying sales
leads (thereby saving valuable sales force time) and (3) Providing more effective tracking of sales leads.

17 - CUSTOMER SERVICE SURVEYS: Focus in detail on the actual customer service that was received, the
process involved in receiving that service and the evaluation of the participants in the service process.


AND RETENTION: Customer Service Representatives hold attitudes that reflect on their job related
activities including (1) the allocation of time; (2) solutions to customer needs; (3) how to improve their
job; (4) best practices; (5) how well internal departments help customers. Focuses on reducing costs
and increasing the quality of customer relationships.

19 - SALES FORECASTING AND MARKET TRACKING SURVEYS: Expert estimates of the market,
judgmental bootstrapping (expert based rules describing how to use available secondary market
information), conjoint analysis (estimation of consumer choice preferences), and self-reported
intentions to make future purchases.

optimal price points, and prices too low or too high. Estimates for different product-service segments,
or usage situations.


1. Problem Formulation
2. Cost-Value Analysis
3. Method of Inquiry
4. Research Design
5. Data Collection Design
6. Planning & Survey Design
7. Data Collection
8. Analyzing/ Interpreting Data
9. Research Report

STAGE 1: FORMULATING THE PROBLEM Formulating a problem is the first step in the research process.
In many ways, research starts with a problem that management is facing. This problem needs to be
understood, the cause diagnosed, and solutions developed. However, most management problems are
not always easy to research. A management problem must first be translated into a research problem.
Once you approach the problem from a research angle, you can find a solution. For example, “sales are
not growing” is a management problem. Translated into a research problem, we may examine the
expectations and experiences of several groups: potential customers, first-time buyers, and repeat
purchasers. We will determine if the lack of sales is due to (1) poor expectations that lead to a general
lack of desire to buy, or (2) poor performance experience and a lack of desire to repurchase.

What then is the difference between a management problem and a research problem? Management
problems focus on an action. Do we advertise more? Do we change our advertising message? Do we
change an under-performing product configuration? If so, how? Research problems, on the other hand,
focus on providing the information you need in order to solve the management problem.


Problem formulation is simplified once we define the components of the research problem.
1. Specify the Research Objectives. A clear statement of objectives will help you develop effective
research. It will help the decision makers evaluate your project. It’s critical that you have manageable
objectives. (Two or three clear goals will help to keep your research project focused and relevant.)

2. Review the Environment or Context of the Problem. As a marketing researcher, you must work
closely with your team. This will help you determine whether the findings of your project will produce
enough information to be worth the cost. In order to do this, you have to identify the environmental
variables that will affect the research project.

3. Explore the Nature of the Problem. Research problems range from simple to complex, depending on
the number of variables and the nature of their relationship. If you understand the nature of the
problem as a researcher, you will be able to better develop a solution for the problem. To help you
understand all dimensions, you might want to consider focus groups of consumers, sales people,
managers, or professionals to provide what is sometimes much needed insight.

4. Define the Variable Relationships. Marketing plans often focus on creating a sequence of behaviors
that occur over time, as in the adoption of a new package design, or the introduction of a new product.
Such programs create a commitment to follow some behavioral pattern in the future. Studying such a
process involves:
• Determining which variables affect the solution to the problem.
• Determining the degree to which each variable can be controlled.
• Determining the functional relationships between the variables and which variables are
critical to the solution of the problem.

During the problem formulation stage, you will want to generate and consider as many courses of action
and variable relationships as possible.

5. The Consequences of Alternative Courses of Action There are always consequences to any course of
action. Anticipating and communicating the possible outcomes of various courses of action is a primary
responsibility in the research process.

STAGE 2: METHOD OF INQUIRY. The scientific method is the standard pattern for investigation. It
provides an opportunity for you to use existing knowledge as a starting point and proceed impartially.
The scientific method includes the following steps: 1. Formulate a problem 2. Develop a hypothesis 3.
Make predictions based on the hypothesis 4. Devise a test of the hypothesis 5. Conduct the test 6.
Analyze the results.
The terminology is similar to the stages in the research process. However, there are subtle differences in
the way the steps are performed. For example, the scientific method is objective while the research
process can be subjective. Objective-based research (quantitative research) relies on impartial analysis.
The facts are the priority in objective research. On the other hand, subjective-based research
(qualitative research) emphasizes personal judgment as you collect and analyze data.

STAGE 3: RESEARCH METHOD. In addition to selecting a method of inquiry (objective or subjective), you
must select a research method. There are two primary methodologies that can be used to answer any
research question: experimental research and non-experimental research. Experimental research gives
you the advantage of controlling extraneous variables and manipulating one or more variables that
influences the process being implemented. Non-experimental research allows observation but not
intervention. You simply observe and report on your findings.

STAGE 4: RESEARCH DESIGN. The research design is a plan or framework for conducting the study and
collecting data. It is defined as the specific methods and procedures you use to acquire the information
you need.

STAGE 5: DATA COLLECTION TECHNIQUES. Your research design will develop as you select techniques to
use. There are many ways to collect data. Two important methods to consider are interviews and

Interviews require you to ask questions and receive responses. Common modes of research
communication include interviews conducted face-to-face, by mail, by telephone, by email, or over the
Internet. This broad category of research techniques is known as survey research. These techniques are
used in both non-experimental research and experimental research.

Another way to collect data is by observation. Observing a person’s or company’s past or present
behavior can predict future purchasing decisions. Data collection techniques for past behavior can
include analyzing company records and reviewing studies published by external sources.

In order to analyze information from interview or observation techniques, you must record your results.
Because the recorded results are vital, measurement and development are closely linked to which data
collection techniques you decide on. The way you record the data changes depends on which method
you use.

STAGE 6: SAMPLE DESIGN. Your marketing research project will rarely examine an entire population. It’s
more practical to use a sample—a smaller but accurate representation of the greater population. In
order to design your sample, you must find answers to these questions:
1. From which base population is the sample to be selected?
2. What is the method (process) for sample selection?
3. What is the size of the sample?

Once you’ve established who the relevant population is (completed in the problem formulation stage),
you have a base for your sample. This will allow you to make inferences about a larger population. There
are two methods of selecting a sample from a population: probability or non-probability sampling. The
probability method relies on a random sampling of everyone within the larger population.
Nonprobability is based in part on the judgment of the investigator, and often employs convenience
samples, or by other sampling methods that do not rely on probability.
The final stage of the sample design involves determining the appropriate sample size. This important
step involves cost and accuracy decisions. Larger samples generally reduce sampling error and increase
accuracy, but also increase costs.

STAGE 7: DATA COLLECTION. Once you’ve established the first six stages, you can move on to data
collection. Depending on the mode of data collection, this part of the process can require large amounts
of personnel and a significant portion of your budget. Personal (face-to-face) and telephone interviews
may require you to use a data collection agency (field service). Internet surveys require fewer personnel,
are lower cost, and can be completed in days rather than weeks or months. Regardless of the mode of
data collection, the data collection process introduces another essential element to your research
project: the importance of clear and constant communication.

STAGE 8: ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION. In order for data to be useful, you must analyze it. Analysis
techniques vary and their effectiveness depends on the types of information you are collecting, and the
type of measurements you are using. Because they are dependent on the data collection, analysis
techniques should be decided before this step.

STAGE 9: THE RESEARCH REPORT The research process culminates with the research report. This report
will include all of your information, including an accurate description of your research process, the
results, conclusions, and recommended courses of action. The report should provide all the information
the decision maker needs to understand the project. It should also be written in language that is easy to
understand. It’s important to find a balance between completeness and conciseness. You don’t want to
leave any information out; however, you can’t let the information get so technical that it overwhelms
the reading audience.

One approach to resolving this conflict is to prepare two reports: the technical report and the summary
report. The technical report discusses the methods and the underlying assumptions. In this document,
you discuss the detailed findings of the research project. The summary report, as its name implies,
summarizes the research process and presents the findings and conclusions as simply as possible.

Another way to keep your findings clear is to prepare several different representations of your findings.
PowerPoint presentations, graphs, and face-to-face reports are all common methods for presenting your
information. Along with the written report for reference, these alternative presentations will allow the
decision maker to understand all aspects of the project.