Marketing research is undertaken to understand a marketing problem better. Effective marketing research involves five steps –
Defining the problem and research objectives
Developing the research plan
Collecting the information
Analysing the information
Presenting the findings.
I. Defining the problem and research objectives: The first step in research calls for the marketing manager is to define the problem carefully and agree on the research objectives. A problem will defined is half solved.
Three types of research projects can be distinguished. Some research is exploratory i.e. to gather preliminary data to shed light on the real nature of the problem and possibly suggest some hypothesis or new ideas. Some research is descriptive i.e. to describe certain magnitudes. Some research is casual – that is t, test a cause and effect relationship.
II. Developing the Research Plan: The second stage of marketing research calls for developing the most efficient plan for gathering the needed information. Research plan calls for decisions on the data sources, research approaches, research instruments, sampling plans and contact methods.
Data Source: The research plan can call for gathering secondary data, primary data or both. Secondary data consists of information that already exists somewhere, having been collected for another purpose. Primary data consist of original information gathered for the specific purpose at hand.
Research Approaches: Primary data can be collected in four broad ways: observation, focus group, Surveys and experiments.
Observation – Fresh data can be gathered by observing the relevant actors and settings.
Focus Group – A focus group is a gathering of six to ten persons who spend a few hours with a skilled interviewer to discuss a project, service, and organization of other marketing entity.
Survey Research – Companies undertake surveys to learn about people’s beliefs, preferences, satisfaction and so on and to measure these magnitudes in the population.
Experiments – Experimental research calls for selected matched groups of subjects, subjecting them to different treatments, controlling extraneous variables and checking whether response differences are statically significant.
Generally speaking observation and focus groups are best suited for exploratory research, surveys are best suited for descriptive research and experiments are best suited for casual research.
Research Instruments – Marketing researchers have a choice of two main research instruments in collecting primary data: the questionnaire and mechanical devices.
Questionnaire consists of a set of questions presented to respondents for their answers. The questionnaire is very flexible in that there is any number of ways to ask questions.
Mechanical instruments are less frequently used in marketing. Galvanometers are used to measure the strength of a subject’s interest on emotions aroused by an exposure to a specific and or picture. The tachistoscope is a device that flashes on and to a subject with an exposure interval that may range from less then one-hundredth of a second to several seconds. After each exposure, the respondent describes everything he recalls. Eye cameras are used to study respondent’s eye moments to see at what points their eyes land first, how long they linger on a given item? The audiometer is an electronic device that is attached to television sets in participating homes to record when the set is on and to which channel it is tuned.
Sampling Plan – The marketing researcher must design a sampling plan, which calls for three decisions
Sampling Unit – This answers who is to be surveyed.
Sample Size – This answers why many people should be surveyed.
Sampling Procedure – This answers who should the respondents to chosen.
Contact Methods – This answers how should the subject be contacted? Choices are meant, telephone or personal interviews.
III. Collecting the information – The researcher must now arrange for collecting the data. This phase is generally the most expensive and most liable to error. Four major problems arise. Some respondents will not be at home and must be re-contacted or replaced. Other respondents will refuse to cooperate. Still other will give biased or dishonest answers. Finally, some interviewers will occasionally be biased or dishonest.
IV. Analyzing the information – The next step is the marketing research process is to extract pertinent findings from the data. The researcher tabulates the data and develops one way and two-way frequency distributions. Averages and measures of dispersion are computed for the major variables.
V. Presenting the findings – the researcher should present major findings that are relevant to the major marketing decisions facing management. The study is useful when it reduces management’s uncertainty concerning the right move to take.