The Marketing Research Process Essay

Introduction

Marketing research is very important for an organization in terms of satisfying consumers, obtaining more market share and achieving profit maximization. Especially, when an organization breaks into an industry as a new entrant, marketing research is vital for it (related to our group project). Before establishing detailed policies to survive and make profit, firms and organizations must obtain enough relevant information about their segmented market and targeted customers. How to collect this sort of information effectively, correctly and efficiently? Marketing research plays a considerably important role in this term.

There are 4 main steps in the whole marketing research process. Firstly, problem and research objectives should be defined clearly; secondly, effective research plan for collecting information should be developed properly; thirdly, final plans for collecting and analyzing need to be implemented carefully; finally, research findings should be interpreted and reported carefully and objectively. Throughout the whole marketing research process, different methods can be used to implement the research. Methods used in the marketing research can be classified into quantitative method and qualitative methods. Of course, sometimes, mixed methodology can be used in order to overcome some shortcomings which might arise when using quantitative and qualitative methods independently.

Questionnaires and interviews are used all the time when organizations and firms do marketing research colleting important information and data. When should people use the former and when should people use the latter? In order to find the more effective and efficient method to do marketing research, people should always pay full attention to their own advantages and disadvantages. Only in this way can useful and correct be collected. These methods mentioned above mainly apply to the primary data collection. Obvious, apart from primary data and information, organizations and firms also need secondary data and information. Therefore, relevant secondary data and information should be collected in proper ways.

* Main body

Interview

Interview is considered as one of the most useful instruments for doing marketing research collecting important data and information. Interviews are used very frequently by firms and organizations in different industries to do research and obtain relevant data and information, which can help them to break into, survive and make substantial profit. Interviews provide very different data from observations: they allow the evaluation team to capture the perspectives of project participants, staff, and others associated with the project. In the hypothetical example, interviews with project staff can provide information on the early stages of the implementation and problems encountered. The use of interviews as a data collection method begins with the assumption that the participants’ perspectives are meaningful, knowable, and able to be made explicit, and that their perspectives affect the success of the project. An interview, rather than a paper and pencil survey, is selected when interpersonal contact is important and when opportunities for follow-up of interesting comments are desired.

Two types of interviews are used in evaluation research: structured interviews, in which a carefully worded questionnaire is administered; and in-depth interviews, in which the interviewer does not follow a rigid form. In the former, the emphasis is on obtaining answers to carefully phrased questions. Interviewers are trained to deviate only minimally from the question wording to ensure uniformity of interview administration. In the latter, however, the interviewers seek to encourage free and open responses, and there may be a tradeoff between comprehensive coverage of topics and in-depth exploration of a more limited set of questions. In-depth interviews also encourage capturing of respondents’ perceptions in their own words, a very desirable strategy in qualitative data collection. This allows the evaluator to present the meaningfulness of the experience from the respondent’s perspective. In-depth interviews are conducted with individuals or with a small group of individuals.

An in-depth interview is a dialogue between a skilled interviewer and an interviewee. Its goal is to elicit rich, detailed material that can be used in analysis (Lofland and Lofland, 1995). Such interviews are best conducted face to face, although in some situations telephone interviewing can be successful.

In-depth interviews are characterized by extensive probing and open-ended questions. Typically, the project evaluator prepares an interview guide that includes a list of questions or issues that are to be explored and suggested probes for following up on key topics. The guide helps the interviewer pace the interview and make interviewing more systematic and comprehensive.

The dynamics of interviewing are similar to a guided conversation. The interviewer becomes an attentive listener who shapes the process into a familiar and comfortable form of social engagement – a conversation – and the quality of the information obtained is largely dependent on the interviewer’s skills and personality (Patton, 1990). In contrast to a good conversation, however, an in-depth interview is not intended to be a two-way form of communication and sharing. The key to being a good interviewer is being a good listener and questioner. Tempting as it may be, it is not the role of the interviewer to put forth his or her opinions, perceptions, or feelings. Interviewers should be trained individuals who are sensitive, empathetic, and able to establish a no-threatening environment in which participants feel comfortable. They should be selected during a process that weighs personal characteristics that will make them acceptable to the individuals being interviewed; clearly, age, sex, profession, race/ethnicity, and appearance may be key characteristics. Thorough training, including familiarization with the project and its goals, is important. Poor interviewing skills, poor phrasing of questions, or inadequate knowledge of the subject’s culture or frame of reference may result in a collection that obtains little useful data. In-depth interviews can be used at any stage of the evaluation process. They are especially useful in answering questions such as those suggested by Patton (1990):

Advantages and disadvantages of in-depth interviews

Advantages

Usually yield richest data, details, new insights

Permit face-to-face contact with respondents

Provide opportunity to explore topics in depth

Afford ability to experience the affective as well as cognitive aspects of responses

Allow interviewer to explain or help clarify questions, increasing the likelihood of useful responses

Allow interviewer to be flexible in administering interview to particular individuals or circumstances

Disadvantages

Expensive and time-consuming

Need well-qualified, highly trained interviewers

Interviewee may distort information through recall error, selective perceptions, desire to please interviewer

Flexibility can result in inconsistencies across interviews

Volume of information too large; may be difficult to transcribe and reduce data

Recording interview data. Interview data can be recorded on tape (with the permission of the participants) and/or summarized in notes. As with observations, detailed recording is a necessary component of interviews since it forms the basis for analyzing the data. All methods, but especially the second and third, require carefully crafted interview guides with ample space available for recording the interviewee’s responses. Three procedures for recording the data are presented below.

In the first approach, the interviewer (or in some cases the transcriber) listens to the tapes and writes a verbatim account of everything that was said. Transcription of the raw data includes word-for-word quotations of the participant’s responses as well as the interviewer’s descriptions of participant’s characteristics, enthusiasm, body language, and overall mood during the interview. Notes from the interview can be used to identify speakers or to recall comments that are garbled or unclear on the tape. This approach is recommended when the necessary financial and human resources are available, when the transcriptions can be produced in a reasonable amount of time, when the focus of the interview is to make detailed comparisons, or when respondents’ own words and phrasing are needed. The major advantages of this transcription method are its completeness and the opportunity it affords for the interviewer to remain attentive and focused during the interview. The major disadvantages are the amount of time and resources needed to produce complete transcriptions and the inhibitory impact tape recording has on some respondents. If this technique is selected, it is essential that the participants have been informed that their answers are being recorded, that they are assured confidentiality, and that their permission has been obtained.

A second possible procedure for recording interviews draws less on the word-by-word record and more on the notes taken by the interviewer or assigned note-taker. This method is called “note expansion.” As soon as possible after the interview, the interviewer listens to the tape to clarify certain issues and to confirm that all the main points have been included in the notes. This approach is recommended when resources are scarce, when the results must be produced in a short period of time, and when the purpose of the interview is to get rapid feedback from members of the target population. The note expansion approach saves time and retains all the essential points of the discussion. In addition to the drawbacks pointed out above, a disadvantage is that the interviewer may be more selective or biased in what he or she writes.

In the third approach, the interviewer uses no tape recording, but instead takes detailed notes during the interview and draws on memory to expand and clarify the notes immediately after the interview. This approach is useful if time is short, the results are needed quickly, and the evaluation questions are simple. Where more complex questions are involved, effective note taking can be achieved, but only after much practice. Further, the interviewer must frequently talk and write at the same time, a skill that is hard for some to achieve. If organizations and firms can make good use of interview’s advantages and avoid its disadvantages, interview can be used as a very effective instrument for marketing research.

Focus Group

As part of our primary research package that we plan to carry out, we have decided to conduct a Focus Group. The focus group will help us to understand, confirm and expand on out secondary data research. It is the type of primary research where we can experience our target market’s insights and opinions first hand and in-depth.

According to numerous textbooks, including ‘Market Research’ by Alvin C. Burns and Ronald F. Bush, there are a number of benefits to holding a focus group. One primary benefit is the ability to generate new and fresh ideas. These ideas can then bounce off other participants and result in a ‘snowballing effect’ which can give some very in-depth ideas. Our moderator (provisionally Simon) will hopefully move the debate into areas which are beneficial to our pre decided objectives. Focus Groups tend to be versatile and large amounts of topics can be covered in a relatively short amount of time. Participants who tend to be quiet or passive can be coerced by the moderator into participating and ‘airing’ their potentially useful or stimulating ideas. However, Focus Groups do have some drawbacks, including the amount of sheer work that must go into planning and conducting one. It can also be difficult to pick a group that accurately represents our target audience. We hope to limit this problem’s effect by having a researched selection technique. Also, people may interpret the results of the focus groups in different ways, and this is why we plan to use an assistant moderator (provisionally Nicky) to interpret from another viewpoint. These adjustments will increase the validity of our results.

We plan to use 8-12 people as suggested in D. Morgan’s Focus Group Kit, of course depending on availability and suitability. These candidates will be as close as possible to the ideal target market and will most likely come from a Club/Pub based society. The topics that will be discussed in the Focus Group will be fully decided once out initial brainstorming session is completed. For our brainstorming session we will get around 6 people from the same or similar society and discuss topics mentioned below.

* Features and Content – What people expect and what they want. For example drinks’ offers, types of information available, section types, etc

* Style – How the web page should be formatted. Will the users appreciate a page that uses some advanced graphics techniques (e.g. like Shockwave) or will it just serve to clutter and confuse. Is a simple text pages with pictures all that is required?

* Image – How should the company present itself? Should it use colours that symbolise a certain mood or subject? Should the logo be simple sketch or complicated image?

Of course in both the Brainstorming session and the Focus Group we will be able to branch out and cover new subjects that are deemed useful data, as and when they appear in the discussions. The focus group will not just cover these subjects, although in far more detail, but will also cover new topics that appeared in the brainstorming session.

Questionnaire

Questionnaires are a useful way of obtaining information about specific problems, and if carried out well then the results can provide a better appreciation of the problem. A questionnaire can be used to obtain various types of information; facts and knowledge (the perceptions, beliefs and the depth of knowledge held by the survey’s respondents in relation to the survey subject), existing opinions held by the respondents, the motives of the respondent (what underlies their specific marketing behaviour), past behaviour (the consumer’s patterns of consumption can be useful in creating a picture of them and in anticipating future behaviour) and indications of future behaviour. Various levels of importance may be placed on each type of information depending on what use it is hoped will be made of the survey results, and what its purpose is in relation to the overall investigation. Questionnaires will be part of an integrated plan to aid the development of our project and will therefore be used to find evidence to support that which is discovered through other types of research, and also to cover any areas that are more suited to investigation through the use of a questionnaire than any other method.

In the early stages of a study open-ended questions are often considered to be more useful, as they can provide a framework for the continuation of the study, and much can be gleaned from the spontaneity and individual flavour of replies. The simplest form of open-ended questions is the request (for information, opinions etc), but this can often be followed by an extension, echo or summary. An extension is used when further information is needed about something the respondent has already mentioned, an echo (exact or nearly exact repetition of the respondents word’s by the interviewer) will often be used for purposes of clarification, finally a summary will summarize the information given by the respondent and ask implicitly for either confirmation or correction. Although the request can be used in any type of questionnaire the extension, echo or summary are really only suitable for use as part of a personal interview, telephone interview or self-administered questionnaire.

Closed questions are the type most often used in later stages of a study or in a larger study as they are often easier to evaluate than open questions and can be administered as part of any type of questionnaire, including mailed questionnaires. There are two types of closed questions, simple alternative questions and multi choice questions. As closed question calls for a response that is strictly limited and it is therefore important to ensure that the alternatives provided offer enough scope for the respondent to answer to the best of their ability, pilot work is often used to ensure that this happens.

Pilot testing can involve re-writing question several times in order to receive the fairest and most useful results, for example answers from earlier open-ended questions may be used for the creation of new closed questions. The phrasing, structure, style, sequence and composition can affect people’s responses, it is therefore important to ensure that these do not influence the results obtained in a serious way. A pilot test should take place under conditions that reflect a miniature of the final survey; this will involve using respondents who reflect the same age socio-economic groups etc of those who will be questioned finally. Pilot tests are also useful for testing the accuracy and reliability of the original sample selected.

Before a questionnaire can be used it must be checked to ensure that it complies to three basic rules; respondents must be able to understand the questions (wording, presentation and type of question are all of importance), they must be able to provide the information requested (if this is not possible then asking the question will be of no use to the investigation, or there may be more suitable methods of getting the information) and finally the respondents must be willing to provide the information ( this covers both their willingness to take the time to complete the questionnaire and also confidentiality issues when supplying information of a personal nature).

If the questionnaire complies with all of these then it should be suitable for circulation, and it is at this point that issues such as distribution, length and method of questionnaire become important. Length of the questionnaire is always important as people are often not willing to devote a great amount of their time to filling in a survey unless they will receive some benefits at the end of it. Open-ended questions and pilot testing can also be useful in determining the target market and who should be sampled in the final questionnaire, this must be considered carefully as it can affect the layout, type and distribution of the questionnaire. There are several forms that questionnaires can take, personal interview, telephone, mail or self administered, and the choice of form will depend on the nature of the investigation and the information that the investigator wishes to obtain.

Secondary data collection theory and application to practice

In the marketing research, secondary data is as useful as primary data. However, secondary data also has its own advantages and disadvantages. Secondary data can usually be obtained more quickly and at lower cost than primary data. Also secondary data source sometimes can provide data an individual firm cannot collect on its own. For example, some information is either not available directly or too expensive to collect for individual firm. Secondary data can also present problems. The needed information may not exist-researchers can rarely obtain all the data they need from secondary sources. Firms must evaluate secondary data carefully to make certain it is relevant, accurate and current and impartial. Secondary data provides a good starting point for research and often helps to define problems and research objectives. So, when firms try to collect secondary information and data, they must realize its advantages and shortcomings. The most important thing for firms is that they should apply these theories carefully when doing marketing research in practice.

Therefore, when we analyze all the secondary data and information related to our project topic, which we have collected and going to collect from different sources, we should follow all the rules and theories mentioned above. And we will make good use of the advantages of secondary data and information; meanwhile, we will also try our best to avoid all the main disadvantages of secondary data and information. To make effective and efficient use of secondary data ; information and the methods of collecting secondary data is to make effective and efficient use of our relatively limited financial resources.

* Conclusion

To sum up, marketing research is very important for firms and organizations in different market structures, such as Perfectly Completive Market, Oligopoly and Monopoly. The main purpose of doing marketing research is to collect enough useful market information and data. There are different instruments for implementing marketing research, and firms and organizations should always choose the possible most effective and efficient instruments to do marketing research obtaining relevant data and information according to different situations and environments. As stated above, instruments like Interview, Focus Group and Questionnaire all have their own advantages and disadvantage when used to do marketing research in practice. Form example, interviews are normally used to collect more qualitative data and information, while questionnaire are more suitable to be used to obtain more quantitative data and information. Also, interviews are normally more expensive for firms and organizations to use than postal questionnaires. This fact suggests that firms and organizations also need to consider their own financial status carefully before taking further action to do marketing research.

Apart from the instruments for collecting primary data and information, theory and application of secondary data collection are also needed to be paid attention to be firms and organization when doing marketing research. As mentioned above, secondary data and information has its advantages and shortcomings. For example, secondary information is relatively easy for firms and organizations to collect, compared to primary data. However, Secondary data is less reliable than primary data in a way. In a word, marketing research are vital for firms and organization in different marketing structures and business cycles, and different instruments can be used in practice to implement the marketing research, but they should be used correctly and cleverly in different situations and environments. Only in this way can firms and organizations obtain valuable data and information effectively and efficiently.

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