In todays competitive business scenario, most companies acknowledge that targeted marketing is the key. Your product has to market to a known audience. On the other hand, champions like Seth godin suggest that the market research process should be designed such that it gives you products which the customer wants, and not products which you will have to convince the customer to buy. So when you want products which sell automatically, you need to have a terrific marketing research process.
Many marketers are sorely mistaken that the key to market research is to know the objectives of market research. However, this is a wrong approach, and you have to understand that each of the steps in the market research process are important and each of them has to be conducted in a correct manner to get the right results. The use of proper market research methods is the reason why firms like IMRB and AC nielsen are most in demand. If they follow the right research process, they will principally give the right results. This is the major concept behind designing the marketing research process.
This article explains you step by step market research in total 8 points.
1) Clear your Research objectives – As explained in detail in the article research objectives, one of the first steps in doing market research is to clear the question WHY you are doing market research? You might be introducing new products or you might want to improce brand recall. In either of the cases, your research objective needs to be clear. For example – If you want to find out what to do to increase turnover, then your research objective is not to introduce new product. Instead, you will be better off researching on how to improve in your product line and depth.
Step no 2 – 4 – Design the market research plan
2) Decide the research approach – Now, once the research objectives are finalised, you have different ways to approach the research problem. Different types of research approaches are used for different problems. if your problem is understanding consumer behavior (example – retail), then you can use observational research. If you are looking for an answer which is psychological, then you might be better off with behavioral research. If you are trying something completely new, then you can try experimental research. Overall, there are different approaches for different problems. There is no use conducting an experimental research when the problem is very clear and you can get the answer through observations.
3) Make a decision about research instrument – The most common research instrument in the market research process is the marketing questionnaire. It has been the best and most accurate primary market research tool since decades. There are so many ways that you can design a market research questionnaire. However, the questionnaire should be designed such that the answers can be captured and analysed easily and they give the correct picture to the analyst. If in the end, the questionnaire is wrong, the answers might turn out to be wrong or worse, the complete market research process might need to be repeated. Besides quantitative instruments, there are also qualititative instruments for the process of market research. These can be word associations, projective techniques and visualization.
4) Make a sampling plan – The fourth step is directly proportional to the third step. Depending on the research instrument, you need to decide the sampling plan. Who will be your sampling audience?. If it is a purely medical research, it will be doctors and nurses. However, if it is a research about how consumers feel when they enter a certain hospital, then the sample will be the patients waiting in the lobby. Finally, if it is a research about which hospitals in an area is preferred by customers, then the sample audience is the general population in that area. Furthermore, for research purpose, the sample size is also decided initially and then the analysis is done from an extrapolated data. Contacting the subject is another process which needs to be finalised in the sampling plan.
5) Collect all information – Once the sampling plan is in place, you need to execute the plan and collect the information from the subjects. One of the challenges in this step is to get as correct an information as you can. Many a times the customer might misguide you or it might happen that the research executive is asking wrong questions which will fudge the information given. In such cases, analysis becomes difficult. The step quite simply states that you need to collect a lot of information as per the sampling plan decided. This is a stage where you organize the information as required by the analysts.
6) Analyze the information – Most market research companies have analysts in place who analyse the information received from frontliners. Frontliners carry out the actual market research via questionnaires and research instruments. The data then comes to analysts who conduct tabulations, use statistical techniques and might also design hypothesis to understand the validity of the data as well as to find out the answer to the research problem. As many top marketing experts say, once the market research process is complete, the only thing which makes or breaks a brand is the analysis of the research questionnaire. Market research analysts might have to find information from the data for products which do not exist currently, but which are in the mind of consumers. Such products and innovations can be brought to life through analysis of market research data and creative thinking from the analyst.
7) Present the findings – An Analyst might have multiple solutions to the companies problems. The presentation needs to be done in the right manner to connect the dots and thereby solve the problems of the company. For example – Firms like Mckinsey do not analyse only one research problem at a time. They might be given a question of “How to increase the brand equity of my company”. To answer the question, they have to many qualitative and quantitative factors which then gives the final answer. However, the challenge here is to communicate all these factors to the management so that an actual change is brought about in the organization to increase its brand equity. Thus, from a market research perspective, it is important that the findings be presented properly to the management.
8) Decision making – Once the market research process is complete, and the analysis is present, it is the responsibility of the management to implement the right marketing plans to solve the problem which the company was having. In such a scenario, it is imperative that the company have various fail safes in place in case the plan fails. At the same time, they need to have buffer and future plans in place also in case the plan succeeds very fast. Thus, the decision based on market research results needs to consider the positives and the negatives at all times ensure a smooth execution of plans.
Once the market research process is complete, the information collected might be stored by the company in another system also commonly known as marketing decision support system. This system generally has all the data collected from the market and can be used by marketers and management alike to make the right decisions for the company. At the same time, it is not necessary that the market research process give completely accurate results. In fact, over time many innovators and thinkers have ignored market research analysis and launched the product by gut feeling and have still succeeded.