A great deal of time and money can be wasted unless marketing research is conducted in a carefully planned manner. Some kind of logical sequence, such as the following, should always be observed. globalgate
A. Identify the Problem
It is vital at the outset to be quite clear what information is needed and for what purpose. Usually it will be required to provide a basis for a management decision. The nature of that decision and the precise way in which the additional information will help in taking it will dictate the kind of information required. Without such definition marketing research is liable to be used to gather a vast quantity of information at great cost but with low utility.
B. Agree Terms of Reference
At what time is the information needed, how much is it worth spending to obtain it, precisely what areas are to be studied and what is their relative importance?
C. Plan the Survey
Factors to be decided upon at this stage include the following:
1. Define the market in which we shall be interested; this is the ‘universe’, the total number of people from which the sample will be selected.
2. Decide on the sampling technique. Marketing research uses extensively the technique of assessing the response of the many by studying that of a carefully selected few, just as a farmer judges the ripeness and quality of his wheat crop by examining a few grains from different parts of the field.
3. Decide on the survey methods to be used.
4. Draft the questionnaire. Most surveys use a series of questions (the questionnaire), which must be constructed with great care to elicit suitable responses from those being interviewed. Planning the survey will also include working out a detailed timetable and allocating manpower and such other resources as computer time. It will also have to be decided whether a single- or multi-stage survey is necessary, and whether there is need for a ‘pilot’ survey in advance of the survey proper.
D. Execute the Survey
The survey has now to be carried out.
E. Analyse the Results
Information is normally gathered in a form that can be directly entered in telephone form or can easily be translated into it. Thus the results of telephone research will normally be keyed directly into a computer. Annually completed questionnaires can be completed in magnetic ink so that the precoded results can be automatically scanned and thus fed to a computer for analysis.
F. Report to Management
Market researchers differ as to whether they should merely report results, go further and interpret them; or go further still and offer recommendations. While one can disagree about whose job it is, ultimately the results of marketing research must be translated into management decisions. There is thus an intermediate and vital stage between delivery of the ‘raw’ facts and management coming to a decision, which means interpreting the facts and assessing their importance.
G. The Limitations of Marketing Research
It is tempting to think that all management decisions would be easier if only there were more information, and that marketing research is the key to better marketing management. There is some truth in this but marketing research does have severe limitations. First, it can be very costly. This can mean that obtaining the information on which to base a ‘better’ decision would absorb any profit the decision might produce. Second, it can be time-consuming. Time is often all-important in marketing decisions. A good guess at the right time may be better than precise knowledge two months too late. Third, it solves nothing by itself. All over the world there are shelves full of market research reports that have not been acted upon. Marketing research is only valuable if it helps in making effective decisions.