Quite often, the terms 'market research' and 'marketing research' are wrongly interpreted and substituted for one another. Market research, in simple words, is the research directed towards a very specific market area, while marketing research has a much wider, broader spectrum. It can be further expanded into two specific domains: consumer-related and business-to-business (B2B). However, the basic steps of marketing research process involved in both the categories are the same.

Step I: Problem Identification and Definition
  • This is the introductory phase of the marketing research process.
  • Basically, it involves a clear and precise understanding of the problem at hand.
  • It is crucial that the research team identifies, understands, and defines the problem in its entire capacity, as it affects all the subsequent activities involved in the research process.
  • Research teams make use of customer feedback, internal and external data reports, sales graphs, purchasing patterns, etc., to come up with an accurate problem definition.
Step II: Designing a Proper Approach
  • The next step is to come up with a near-flawless approach aimed at solving the identified problem.
  • During this process, the research team has to analyze and examine a variety of factors, for instance, the company's targets, goals, and objectives, financial resources, skill sets, manpower, industry environment, changing business trends, etc.
  • This phase often involves joint discussions between the research team, industry experts, and higher management.
Step III: Developing the Actual Research Design
  • This is the decisive step, wherein, the research design is the very fulcrum of the entire process.
  • The solidity of the research design alone decides the success or failure of the research program to a large extent. Naturally, this step is the most time-consuming of all, and it needs careful thinking and precise execution as well.
  • The different activities involved in this process include feedback analysis, qualitative and quantitative analysis, preparing questionnaires, as well as sampling of data and processes.
Step IV: Data Collection and Survey
  • This process mainly involves a lot of field-related work activities, such as outdoor interviews, survey campaigns, and feedback sessions, which are done by specially assigned data collection agents or field agents.
  • Almost all those salesmen who ring the bell continuously, distribute pamphlets, or the irritating tele-callers who telephone at the most untimely hours, are data collection agents who are just doing their duty.
  • Data collection and surveying is also implemented by means of Internet surveys, group discussions, mail surveys, etc.
Step V: Data Structuring and Analysis
  • Once the data collection and surveying activities have yielded sufficient and relevant data, it is time to systematically organize the data so that it can be interpreted and analyzed by decision makers.
  • This typically involves activities, such as data mining, data clustering, preparing statistical graphs and curves, etc.
Step VI: Report Generation and Presentation
  • All the effort that goes into designing an approach, developing a research design, collecting data, and finally analyzing the data will be completely wasted if the results are not presented properly.
  • It is imperative that the whole project be properly documented and accounted for.
  • The entire purpose of the research campaign is to enable the higher management to make informed decisions, which will benefit the progress and the sales of the concerned product or service.
  • Hence, it is crucial that the research findings be presented accurately, clearly, and relevantly.
  • For this purpose, the use of appropriate statistics, graphs, pie-charts, etc. is recommended.
Marketing research is a thoroughly linked process, wherein every step is individually as well as collectively important. A slight mistake or shortcoming in any of these steps can largely affect the eventual success or failure of the entire campaign.