Marketing research is that process wherein the organization is able to collect the necessary data to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of its current market position. Marketing research can also help you determine what products or services are being offered by the competition.
We all know that marketing research is important, but many businesses don’t know how to get started. As a marketer, you are responsible for building relationships with your customers. Your ultimate goal is to provide high-quality products and services to your customers. You can achieve this goal by learning what they need through market research efforts.”
There are five steps in the market research process that will enable you to gather and understand the information that is needed to determine how best to meet your needs.
Step 1 – Locating and Defining Issues or Problems
This step focuses on uncovering the nature and boundaries of a situation or question related to marketing strategy or implementation. In defining the issues or problems, the researcher should take into account the purpose of the study, the relevant background information, what information is needed, and how it will be used in decision making.
The most important part of the marketing research process is defining the problem. In order to do any research and collect data, you have to know what you are trying to learn from the research. In marketing research, defining the problem you need to solve will determine what information you need and how you can get that information. This will help your organization clarify the overarching problem or opportunity, such as how to best address the loss of market share or how to launch a new product to a specific demographic.
Develop questions that will allow you to define your problem (or opportunity), and examine all potential causes so that the research can be whittled down to the information you actually need to solve that problem or determine what action to take regarding an opportunity. Oftentimes, these are questions about who your target market or ideal buyer persona is (for example: “What does our ideal customer look like?”). These might include questions about demographics, what their occupation is, what they like to do in their spare time—anything to help you get a clearer picture of who your ideal buyer persona is. Consider as many variables and potential causes as possible.
Step 2 – Designing the Research Project
This step is focused on creating a research plan or overall approach on how you are going to solve the issue or problem identified. A research plan or approach is a framework or blueprint for conducting the marketing research project. It details the procedures necessary for obtaining the required information, and its purpose is to design a study that will test the hypotheses of interest, determine possible answers to the research questions, and provide the information needed for decision making.
After you’ve examined all potential causes of the problem and have used those questions to boil down exactly what you’re trying to solve, it’s time to build the research plan. Your research plan can be overwhelming to create because it can include any method that will help you answer the research problem or explore an opportunity identified in step one.
To help you develop the research plan, let’s review a few techniques for conducting research:
- Interview prospects and customers. Oftentimes, you get the best feedback by using this tactic because you’re going straight to the source. This might take the form of a focus group or one-on-one interviews. Use your defined research problem to help select the right people to interview.
- Conduct a survey using SurveyMonkey or another tool.
- Run user tests on your website or landing page(s). This is a cost-effective approach that can provide a lot of insight and data on how your customers or potential customers behave or respond to something, whether it’s new messaging or branding or a modified product or service you are thinking about offering. Simple A/B tests can go a long way in discovering user behavior. Use heatmapping tools, such as Hotjar or Lucky Orange, and website analytics tools, such as Google Analytics or HubSpot analytics, to track results depending on what data you need to collect.
Oftentimes, we do all of this work and gather all of the data—only to realize that we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel because someone had already run a similar, credible study or solved the same problem. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to do any research, but learning about what other organizations have done to solve a problem or seize an opportunity can help you tweak your research study and save you time when considering all of the research options. In marketing research, this is called secondary data because it has been collected by someone else, versus the primary data that you would collect through your own research study.
The research design involves the following steps: 
- Secondary data analysis
- Qualitative research
- Methods of collecting quantitative data (survey, observation, and experimentation)
- Definition of the information needed
- Measurement and scaling procedures
- Questionnaire design
- Sampling process and sample size
- Plan of data analysis
Step 3 – Collecting Data
This step revolved around obtaining the information that you will need to solve the issue or problem identified. Data collection involves a field force or staff that operates either in the field, as in the case of personal interviewing (in-home, mall intercept, or computer-assisted personal interviewing), from an office by telephone (telephone or computer-assisted telephone interviewing), or through the mail (traditional mail and mail panel surveys with recruited households).
In marketing research, most of the data you collect will be quantitative (numbers or data) versus qualitative, which is descriptive and observational. Ideally, you will gather a mix of the two types of data. For example, you might run an A/B test on your website to see if a new pricing tier would bring in more business. In that research study, you might also interview several customers about whether or not the new pricing tier would appeal to them. This way, you’re receiving hard data and qualitative data that provide more color and insight.
When collecting data, make sure it’s valid and unbiased. You should never ask a research interviewee, “You think that we should offer a higher pricing tier with additional services, correct?” This type of question is clearly designed to influence the way the person responds. Try asking both open-ended and closed-ended questions (for instance, a multiple-choice question asking what income range best describes you).
Step 4 – Interpreting Research Data
This step is focused on examining the data and coming up with a conclusion that solves the problem.
Now that you’ve gathered all of the information you need, it’s time for the fun part: analyzing the data. Although one piece of information or data might jump out at you, it’s important to look for trends as opposed to specific pieces of information. As you’re analyzing your data, don’t try to find patterns based on your assumptions prior to collecting the data.
Sometimes, it’s important to write up a summary of the study, including the process that you followed, the results, conclusions, and what steps you recommend taking based on those results. Even if you don’t need a formal marketing research report, be sure that you review the study and results so that you can articulate the recommended course of action. Sharing the charts and data you collected is pointless if it doesn’t lead to action.
Was your hypothesis proven wrong? Great—that’s why you do testing and don’t run with assumptions when making decisions that could have a major impact on your organization. It’s always better to take the results as they are than to twist the data to prove yourself right.
Step 5 – Report Research Findings
The final step is to report the research findings to those who need the data to make decisions. The findings should be presented in a comprehensible format so that they can be readily used in the decision-making process. In addition, an oral presentation should be made to management using tables, figures, and graphs to enhance clarity and impact.
Your research is complete. It’s time to present your findings and take action. Start developing your marketing strategies and campaigns. Put your findings to the test and get going! The biggest takeaway here is that, although this round of research is complete, it’s not over.
The problems, business environment, and trends are constantly changing, which means that your research is never over. The trends you discovered through your research are evolving. You should be analyzing your data on a regular basis to see where you can improve. The more you know about your buyer personas, industry, and company, the more successful your marketing efforts and company will be. When you look at it that way, you should start to wonder why so many organizations don’t budget time and resources for marketing research.
Of course, there is a lot more to the marketing research process than these five core steps, but these are enough to get you started. Good luck, and be sure to share any tips you have discovered for conducting marketing research!
Marketing research is a crucial part of marketing and product design. It involves the process of thoroughly and systematically investigating the customers and competitors’ needs to maximize their satisfaction and benefits from a product or source. Marketing research is the process that helps the marketers to classify, segment, target, localize and personalize their promotional activities.