To be successful in marketing research, you need to draw on many different sources of information. There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting accurate data. Every research project goes through seven basic steps, which are discussed below.

If you want more of customers and for your customers to talk positively about you, then you must know what is good and what is not good of your product, services and sales. The 7 steps in the marketing research process of knowing how to implement strategies will help you on your way.

 Identification and Defining the Problem

The market research process begins with the identification “of a problem faced by the company. The clear-cut statement of problem may not be possible at the very outset of research process because often only the symptoms of the problems are apparent at that stage. Then, after some explanatory research, clear definition of the problem is of crucial importance in marketing research because such research is a costly process involving time, energy and money.

Clear definition of the problem helps the researcher in all subsequent research efforts including setting of proper research objectives, the determination of the techniques to be used, and the extent of information to be collected.

It may be noted that the methods of explanatory research popularly in use are—survey of secondary data, experience survey, or pilot studies, i.e., studies of a small initial sample. All this is also known as ‘preliminary investigation’.

 Considering the Possible Solutions

Once the problem is defined, the next step is to feel it or to have minimum acquaintance. It is the tentative probing done in around the problem so defined so as to size if up.

Such a probing involves informal investigation to explain the phenomenon. This exploratory or preliminary investigation offers the possible solutions to the problem or provides hypothesis.

Research hypothesis is a statement of tentative supposition or a possible solution of a problem based on marketing experience or judgment and or a documentary evidence. Thus, the hypothesis may be “falling sales are on account of discouraging business conditions and acute competition”.

This hypothesis so developed can be tested and the findings may be proved or disproved. Formulating the hypothesis is indispensible in most research studies because, it serves as a frame-work for the future data collection, analysis and interpretation.

Hypothesis indicates as to what factors are more important, thereby restricting the extent of investigation and analysis. It gives a definite route, vision and direction to research work. The talents, treasure and the time are not wasted unnecessarily.

In case the information or exploratory explanation does not provide the deserved solution, the only alternative is to go in for formal or conclusive investigation. In most cases, the alternative solutions so considered may not be adequate to solve the problems so identified or defined. This paves way for the next step.

 Developing a Research Design

A research design is the master-plan or a model for the conduct of formal investigation. It is a preconceived scheme or blue- print followed in completing the research studies so undertaken. It is one that provides for a frame-work within which the researcher is to work.

The research design or plan keeps the study right on the track making it to keep pace with the problem requirements and makes possible best result with minimum of resources and possible procedures.

It goes without saying that such a research design is structured only after defining the problem. The formation or research design is dependent on the nature of problem so identified.

Development of a sound research design comprises of seven sub- steps namely:

(a) Defining the objectives of the investigation.

(b) Planning and determining the scope of investigation.

(d) Estimating the time required.

(e) Preparing the personnel and administrative set-up.

(f) Preparing the budget.

(g) Formulating the research proposal and getting it Okayed.

Collection of Marketing Data

Once the research design is ready, finalized and approved, the researcher is to embark upon the vital task of data collection. A comprehensive research study requires both primary and secondary data.

‘Primary’ data is one which is originally collected by the researchers based on sampling. Collection of primary data is time and money consuming affair.

It may be collected by survey, observation or experimentation or any possible combination suitable to the firm and the researcher. It is an unpublished, but latest and relevant to the problem and most accurate.

The sources may be consumers, salesmen, sales-records and so on. On the other hand, ‘Secondary’ data is both published and unpublished information which is readily available with the external parties.

Such information may not be latest but unbiased and, therefore, accurate and reliable. It costs less in terms of time and money.

The sources of secondary data are published surveys of markets government publications, Government reports, publications of research organizations, publications of trade associations and chambers of commerce general and special libraries internal sources such as purchase and sales records, reports and other records of the firm.

Data Collection

The collection of data relates to the gathering of facts to be used in solving the problem. Hence, methods of market research are essentially methods of data collection. Data can be secondary, i.e., collected from concerned reports, magazines and other periodicals, especially written articles, government publications, company publications, books, etc.

Data can be primary, i.e., collected from the original base through empirical research by means of various tools.

There can be broadly two types of sources

(i) Internal sources—existing within the firm itself, such as accounting data, salesmen’s reports, etc.

(ii) External sources—outside the firm.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Data analysis and interpretation are possible only when data is processed. Data processing implies data reduction namely, editing, tabulating, analysis and interpretation. Editing is a kind of verification as to whether the data collected as per the instructions given so that the answers are consistent and logical.

Editing facilitates tabulation. Tabulation implies data arrangement as to classes and weight-ages. Coding is a must when data is fed to electronic data processing units.

In analysis of data, the researcher examines the variables so designed, compares them, and computes averages and percentages. He applies refined technical and statistical techniques of correlation and regression to understand and explain the data behaviour. Based on the understanding reached by the researcher, it becomes easier to arrive at definite conclusions that either prove or disprove the hypothesis built earlier. Thus, interpretation is a minute and meticulous work involving the use of mental faculties of sound judgment and clear vision to reach a cut-off point.

Statement of Research Objectives

After identifying and defining the problem with or without explanatory research, the researcher must take a formal statement of research objectives. Such objectives may be stated in qualitative or quantitative terms and expressed as research questions, statement or hypothesis. For example, the research objective, “To find out the extent to which sales promotion schemes affected the sales volume” is a research objective expressed as a statement.

On the other hand, a hypothesis is a statement that can be refuted or supported by empirical finding. The same research objective could be stated as, “To test the proposition that sales are positively affected by the sales promotion schemes undertaken this winter.”

Example of another hypothesis may be: “The new packaging pattern has resulted in increase in sales and profits.” Once the objectives or the hypotheses are developed, the researcher is ready to choose the research design.

 Preparing and Presenting the Research Report

The researcher is to present his findings to the user in the form of a report. The research findings remain futile in case they are not communicated effectively, clearly and accurately to the decision makers.

There are cases where marketing research findings are rendered a total flop because of bad reporting. That is, every researcher should be extra careful to present his findings in the form, manner and the language tailored to the tastes of the users.

The style of presenting the stuff must be simple and lucid with a sting of stimulation and touch of interest. Latest visuals and colour combinations such as charts, diagrams, graphs, photographs and the like are to be used. The findings and the recommendations must be clear, precise, and feasible.

A typical research report starts with a title page, followed by the table contents, outline of research, statement of marketing problem, conversion of it into research problem, objectives of the study plan of the study, data collection, analysis, assumptions, limitations, findings and recommendations.

It ends with the appendixes, a copy of questionnaire, glossary of terms, tables, maps, charts, photographs and bibliography.

Conclusion

It is vital that all businesses undergo some kind of marketing research in order to make sure that their products and services reach their target market. Think of marketing research as the process in which businesses gather and analyze information about what they do, in order to discover in what ways they can make improvements.

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