Determining When Marketing Research Is the Best Solution

Instructor: Sunil Hazari

Sunil teaches in the Business School at a state university in Georgia. He is also a Digital Marketing Consultant in Atlanta.

Marketing professionals often need to determine solutions for problems related to Price, Product, Pricing, and Promotion (i.e. the __Marketing Mix__). From the various __Marketing Research__ options available, it is important to assess the validity of different research methods that can be used along with sources of information, relevance, and reliability of information.

The Importance of Marketing Research for Making Decisions

With a tremendous amount of data that can be accessed from various sources, marketing professionals need to make intelligent and thoughtful decisions. Marketing Research helps organize data to help make decisions which is a result of reliable information. This makes Marketing Research an important component of the overall strategic plan as decisions made as a result of research can affect sales, revenue, and profits. Companies can source data from different sources. Some of these sources are consumer surveys, social media, sales figures, and trade associations. Once data is collected from any source, it needs to be examined to make sure data is relevant, accurate, and useful. In this lesson we will look at different sources of information, research methods, and relevance of information.

Sources of Information

For Marketing Research efforts to be successful, data needs to be collected in a systematic manner. This will help marketers be confident of the ability to identify, collect, analyze, and act on the information as a result of data collected from various sources of information. Before collecting any data, the first step is to identify or define the marketing research problem. Based on this problem, we can identify sources of data that will provide relevant information which can be analyzed. Some examples of marketing problems a company may be interested in addressing include increasing brand awareness, accurately forecasting sales, or determining market potential. Each of these problems may have different sources of relevant and useful information.

There are two main sources of data: Primary and Secondary. Primary sources involve actively collecting original data for the research problem. The researcher collects data from surveys, interviews, or focus groups. Data is collected from a relevant sample identified by the researcher. Based on the data collected, the researcher is then able analyze the data and make recommendations for action.

Primary data may also be archived for use as secondary data at a later stage.

Secondary data involves accessing data that may already have been collected for some other reason. Some sources of secondary data are market research firms, government sources, or trade associations. For example, census data which has been previously collected by government sources can be used for market segmentation purposes. Using census data, it may be possible to divide a section of a geographical area based on demographics of consumers. This can help show patterns of common interests which in turn can result in specific marketing strategy recommendation. Secondary data collection takes less time compared to collecting primary data. A good rule to follow is to always start with secondary data before collecting primary data. The disadvantage of using secondary data sources is that information may not be current. It is up to the researcher to determine the quality of data available before performing any analysis on the data.

Research Methods

There are two categories of research methods: Quantitative and Qualitative.

Quantitative methods involve calculations using numbers. This is usually done by using spreadsheet or statistical software programs such as Microsoft Excel or SPSS. Once data is analyzed, the researcher is in a position to interpret the data according to the types of analysis used. The results and interpretation are then presented using tables, charts, and graphs. The report provides management a good decision making tool for making marketing decisions.

Qualitative methods use more open-ended techniques for data collection. During qualitative research, small samples are used which include collecting data from specifically selected individuals, such as those who may be using a company product for a long time. Data collected from these respondents is more valuable than data collected from any random individual who may not have heard about the product. Using open-ended interviews, a qualitative research study would ask selected individuals about the use of the product, the conditions of use, the attributes of the product, and open-ended suggestions that individuals may make, either individually or as part of a focus group. This type of inquiry provides deeper insights into thought processes of consumers that may not have been possible to be extracted if just a survey was used to collect data.

By using a combination of both types of data collection methods, Qualitative method to start the research inquiry into the marketing problem, and then by using a larger sample for Quantitative analysis, a researcher is better able to recommend a final course of action related to the marketing problem.

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