Basic Steps of Marketing Research Process

Marketing research is a step-wise process which involves several activities such as identifying the problem, gathering relevant data and ultimately, analyzing the gathered data for the sole purpose of decision making by the higher management.
Quite often, the terms 'market research' and 'marketing research' are wrongly interpreted and substituted for one another. Market research, in simple words, is nothing but the research that is directed towards a very specific i.e. particular market area, whereas marketing research has a much wider, broader spectrum. Marketing research can be further expanded into two specific domains: consumer-related marketing research and business-to-business marketing (B2B) research. However, the basic steps involved in both of these types are generally the same.

#1: 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.

#2: Designing a Proper Approach
The next step is to come up with a near-flawless approach which is aimed at solving the identified problem. During this process, the research team has to analyze and examine a variety of factors such as 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.

#3: Developing the Actual Research Design
This is the decisive step, wherein, the research design is the very fulcrum of the entire marketing research 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 the steps and it needs careful thinking and precise execution. Different activities involved in this process include feedback analysis, qualitative and quantitative analysis, preparing questionnaires as well as sampling of data and processes.

#4: 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 of those doorbell-ringing pamphlet guys or the irritating tele-callers who telephone at the most untimely of hours, are data collection agents who are just doing their duty, as part of their company's marketing research process. Data collection and surveying is also implemented by means of Internet surveys, group discussions, mail surveys, etc.

#5: 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, clustering of data, preparing statistical graphs and curves, etc.

#6: Report Generation and Presentation
All the effort that goes into designing an approach, developing a research design, collecting data and finally analyzing the data, completely goes waste, if the findings and the results are not presented properly. It is imperative that the whole marketing research 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 marketing research campaign.
Published: June 29, 2009
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