Developing the Research Plan

The second step of the marketing research process calls for determining the information needed, developing a plan for gathering it efficiently, and presenting the plan to marketing management. The plan outlines sources of existing data and spells out the specific research approaches, contact methods, sampling plans, and instruments that researchers will use to gather new data.


Determining Specific Information Needs

Research objectives must be translated into specific information needs. For example, suppose Campbell decides to conduct research on how consumers would react to the company replacing its familiar red-and-white condensed soup can with a container more relevant to today’s consumer lifestyles. It’s considering the introduction of new bowl-shaped plastic containers that it has used successfully for a number of its other products. The containers would cost more but would allow consumers to heat the soup in a microwave oven without adding water or milk and to eat it without using dishes. This research might call for the following specific information:

  • The demographic, economic, and lifestyle characteristics of current soup users.

  • Consumer-usage patterns for soup: how much soup they eat, where, and when.

  • Retailer reactions to the new packaging.

  • Consumer attitudes toward the new packaging.

  • Forecasts of sales of both new and current packages.

Campbell managers will need these and many other types of information to decide whether to introduce the new packaging.


Gathering Secondary Information

To meet the manager’s information needs, the researcher can gather secondary data, primary data, or both. Secondary data consist of information that already exists somewhere, having been collected for another purpose. Primary data consist of information collected for the specific purpose at hand.

Researchers usually start by gathering secondary data. The company’s internal database provides a good starting point. However, the company can also tap a wide assortment of external information sources, ranging from company, public, and university libraries to government and business publications.