marketing research proposal

marketing research proposal

The Power of Marketing Research: Proposing a Comprehensive Approach

1. Introduction

The changing role of marketing research can best be understood by viewing it as developing in three relatively distinct phases. Up until the late 1970s, marketing research was primarily concerned with providing customer input to tactical marketing decisions. This was the era of the “decision support function”. Beginning in the late 1970s and 1980s marketing research began to involve the use of more sophisticated statistical and methodological tools to address specific business problems. This has been referred to as the era of the “analyst.” Today, marketing research should be embarking on a new phase that will be characterized by the systemic and strategic input to decision making. This is the era of the “strategic partner.” Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that marketing research is making slow progress. In one sense it is doing too much and in another sense it is doing too little. At the tactical level there is plenty of research but much of it is being done by research agencies or junior marketing managers who have little understanding of the strategic implications of their findings. On the other hand, research into strategic issues is being conducted much too haphazardly. In many cases, it amounts to little more than the filming of a group brainstorming session with the output consisting of a confusing and unstructured mass of ideas and opinions. In fact, much marketing research is still nothing more than tactical support of the type it was doing twenty years ago.

Today, the role of marketing research is changing. Research is far too important to the success of an organization to be left to the researchers. Too often decisions are being made without consumer input. At the same time, marketing research has failed to consider how it can provide senior management with the information it needs to make decisions. The result has been the paradox of a function that is becoming increasingly important to the decision-making process, yet is also being increasingly bypassed by that process.

2. Defining the Research Objectives

Next, the descriptive objective is conducted when the company has a clear perception about the problem. In this situation, it is better to describe the problem, so the result can give a clearer interpretation of the problem. The diagnostic objective is conducted when the company needs comprehensive understanding of the problem. In this objective, the focus is to analyze the causalities between variables. The last is predictive objective. This is the most common research objective conducted because the company expects the research can solve the present problem and prevent problems from occurring again in the future.

There are 4 types of research objectives: explorative, descriptive, diagnostic, and predictive. The difference among those types can be seen from the purpose of the research conducted. Explorative objective is conducted when the company or marketing decision has identified the problem but does not have clear perception, quite uncertain about the variables. The task is to explore the problem and find the alternative solution or recommendation. This research only gives a view and rough preview of the problem.

Defining the correct research objective is the most important of the research process because the direction of the all research will be closely related to how the research objective is formulated. If we take an analogy, a research is a journey and the research objective is the final destination. It means the closer the research objective is to how it should be, the research will be more effective and efficient spent. For marketing research, the research objective is known as the specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-related (SMART) characteristic, which is a very good help in forming the research objective.

3. Methodology: Gathering and Analyzing Data

Mechanical instruments are less common but increasingly used tools in marketing research. Data can be obtained from devices that monitor respondents or a device can be given to the respondent, such as a video recorder, and the data can be retrieved at a later date. Due to the complexity and usually higher cost of these research instruments, it is important that an in-depth understanding of these tools will give good justification of the method.

In the preliminary stages of the methodology, we have to consider the research instruments. This is a tool for data collection and there are two types: questionnaire and mechanical instrument. Usually, a questionnaire is the best option for consumer research. It can be conducted by mail, telephone, email, or by casual or arranged encounters with respondents. The questionnaire can be structured or unstructured observation. Structured questions are ideal for providing specific answers and are great for entering the data onto a statistical package for analysis. Unstructured observation allows the researcher to respond to immediate feedback from the respondent, providing greater depth of feelings or beliefs of the respondent.

Exploratory research is usually carried out when the problem is not clearly defined. This allows the researcher to familiarize themselves with the problem or concept to provide more insight into the exact problem. Data is usually gathered from secondary sources such as articles, books, or internet media. It can also be obtained through qualitative methods of research like interviews or group discussions. This method would be preferable for a company that wants to find out consumer likes and dislikes of their product for instant feedback.

After selecting an appropriate research strategy, the next stage is selecting a research method to collect primary data. In the design of the research plan, we have to consider data sources, research approaches, research instruments, and sampling plans. This stage calls for careful decision on the research design, depending on the research type. There are three research approaches to consider.

4. Presenting Findings and Recommendations

In most organizations, marketing research findings are provided to a manager who is a “client” of the internal marketing research department. To the extent that the client understands the method used to obtain the findings, the client will have a good appreciation for the quality of those findings. Explaining the research data completely and accurately includes not only showing how the methodology used was valid and reliable, but also detailing its limitations. The researcher must present the findings in a way that will convince the client that the research conducted was valuable. This includes providing the research data in an organized manner using a research “audit” supported by drawing research conclusions. It is rare that a single study can completely answer a particular marketing problem. Normally, the findings of a single study are compiled with many others to contribute to a final marketing decision. However, much research which is useful in the marketing decision-making process is never published. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all studies, no matter how conclusive to the decision, are carried from the start with the intention of publishing the results. This makes it much easier for the client to share the research findings throughout their organization. Published results are also checked by a global pool of researchers, which can often provide new insights on previously established findings.

5. Conclusion and Next Steps

Several points should be noted from the findings that are of relevance to the marketing research industry and to the users of marketing research. First, while the debate about the role and function of marketing research rages on, it seems that many of the users of research stand to be disillusioned by the industry and its methods. This was reiterated in comments made by senior marketers at companies about the things they would “like to have known” before embarking on recent research projects. This suggests that the industry is not delivering to the expectations of its consumers. Sentiments like these are widespread, and it is clear that the users of research often do not see the value in what they are paying for. This was backed up by anecdotal evidence at the Generating Knowledge conference about how research findings are often concealed from senior managers if they are not favorable, and research agencies’ fear of giving bad news. There is a clear imbalance of power and information between those buying research and the research industry itself. In current times, it is more imperative than ever that research is utilized efficiently. Marketing budgets are being cut, with pressures to show return on investment. In line with these findings, one of the key areas selected for in-depth investigation was the automotive sector. This sector was selected because during Colin Morley’s 40-year tenure as a market researcher, he has seen the power and stature of the research industry fluctuate considerably within this one sector. This appeared to be a fascinating insight into how research has adapted in order to provide what the customer wants and what the research industry believes to be the “right” solution. The disparity between the two and the methods used to bridge the gap – often to no avail – makes a compelling case for the recent disillusionment with the industry.

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