The market research process consists of six discrete stages or steps. They are as follows:
- Step 1 - Articulate the research problem and objectives
- Step 2 - Develop the overall research plan
- Step 3 - Collect the data or information
- Step 4 - Analyze the data or information
- Step 5 - Present or disseminate the findings
- Step 6 - Use the findings to make the decision
In the market research process, the sixth step is: Use the Findings to Make the Business Decisions.
What Can Go Wrong?
Despite the fact that market research is an intensive and expensive initiative, internal and external consumers of market research insights may not use the findings accurately, appropriately, or completely. Some of the reasons for this are discussed below, as a prelude to considering the attributes of good market research.
Market Research is Not Fact-Finding
Managers and business decision-makers may not always hold informed perspectives with regard to market research. For some managers, who have limited exposure to research design and scientific theoretical background, market research is a fact-finding endeavor, at best. These managers and business decision-makers request market research in a particular and often familiar format. But they typically fail to understand the need for a thoughtful consideration of the research problem to be addressed.
When market researchers return with the deliverables that have been requested, often after protracted protest and attempts to explain the inadequacies of such a misconceived plan, they are often discouraged. Questionnaires are cobbled together, samples are thrown together, and interviews are poorly conducted. Finally, reports filled with limitations of the research and requests for additional funds and more time are disseminated. Is it any wonder that such a manager concludes that fact-finding is of limited usefulness, just as he always suspected?
You Get What You Pay For - Even in Market Research
The caliber of market researchers, as in most professions, will reflect their perceived value to the company that hires them. When market researchers receive low pay and market research is seen as basically a clerical activity, the research outcomes are very likely to reflect the results of New Coke. The Coca-Cola company did not identify the research problem accurately since the marketing team at Coca-Cola was focused on taste and not on brand. But consumers of Coca-Cola are highly engaged in their brand and, as such, they were not eager for change to their favorite beverage.
Timing is everything in market research, too. Sometimes research findings are produced too late for the changes in the market. Occasionally, the findings are erroneous. When business managers or decision-makers are impatient for a market research project to conclude, they may apply pressure that results in premature release of data and inconclusive findings. It is reasonable for managers and business decision makers to expect accurate and conclusive research findings. But it is not always reasonable for them to expect those outcomes yesterday-or tomorrow. As well as they are able, market researchers must press for a collaboratively developed research plan that will specify a reasonable end date.
What Can Go Right? Criteria of Good Market Research
- Scientific Method - When a quantitative research approach is used in market research, the principles and procedures of evidence-based, empirical methods are employed. These include systematic and careful observation, appropriate sampling procedures, hypothesis formulation and testing, prediction and forecasting, and pilot testing. Even when the market research is qualitative in approach, proven, established, and conventional research methods are employed.
- Research Creativity - Market research must be innovative and keep up with the disruptive technologies that overtake the creation and sharing of information, including market research information.
- Multiple Methods - Some of the strongest and most credible market research uses multiple approaches to a research problem. The confidence of consumers of market research is increased when the research outcomes are confirmed through multiple methods.
- Interdependence of Models and Data - The interpretation of market research stems from the underlying models, theoretical perspectives, and philosophical groundings that guide and inform the type of data that is collected and the methods used to gather and analyze the information.
- Value and Cost of Information> - Market researchers strive to estimate the value and cost of information. The perceptions of the research consumers play an important part in this valuation as their willingness to accept and act on the outcomes has value, even though it may be difficult to quantify. For quantitative market research, the validity and reliability of the data add to the valuation; for qualitative market research, the trustworthiness of the information has value.
- Healthy Skepticism - Market researcher are alert to the havoc that marketing myths can perpetuate. Market researchers are known to express a healthy skepticism for glib assumptions conveyed by managers and other consumers of market research about how the market works. Market researchers are aware of and guard against the conventional wisdom, particularly from sales teams who assert that market research cannot tell them anything new about their customers or potential customers.
- Ethical Marketing - Effective market research holds benefit for both the customers and the company commissioning the market research. Market researchers hold to standards that diminish the prospect that market research data will be misused. The perceptions of consumers with regard to market research are of paramount concern to market researchers who work to guard consumers against annoying procedures, unauthorized violations of privacy, and disguised sales pitches masquerading as market research.
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