What is Marketing Research?
According to the American Marketing Association, marketing research is the systematic gathering, recording, and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services. Every small business owner-manager must ask the following questions to devise effective marketing strategies:
Who are my customers and potential customers?
What kind of people are they?
Where do they live?
Can and will they buy?
Am I offering the kinds of goods or services they want at the best place, at the best time
and in the right amounts?
Are my prices consistent with what buyers view as the product's value?
Are my promotional programs working?
What do customers think of my business?
How does my business compare with my competitors?
Marketing research is not a perfect science. It deals with people and their constantly changing feelings and behaviors, which are influenced by countless subjective factors. To conduct marketing research you must gather facts and opinions in an orderly, objective way to find out what people want to buy, not just what you want to sell them.
Why do it?
It is impossible to sell products or services that customers do not want. Learning what customers want, and how to present it attractively, drives the need for marketing research. Small business has an edge over larger concerns in this regard. Large businesses must hire experts to study the mass market, while small-scale entrepreneurs are close to their customers and can learn much more quickly about their buying habits. Small business owners have a sense their customers' needs from years of experience, but this informal information may not be timely or relevant to the current market.
Marketing research focuses and organizes marketing information. It ensures that such information is timely and permits entrepreneurs to:
- · Reduce business risks
- · Spot current and upcoming problems in the current market
- · Identify sales opportunities
- · Develop plans of action
How to do it
Without being aware of it, most business owners do market research every day. Analyzing returned items, asking former customers why they've switched, and looking at competitor's prices are all examples of such research. Formal marketing research simply makes this familiar process orderly. It provides a framework to organize market information.
Market Research The Process
Step One: Define Marketing Problems and Opportunities
Step Two: Set Objectives, Budget, and Timetables
Step Three: Select Research Types, Methods, and Techniques
Step Four: Design Research Instruments
Step Five: Collect Data
Step Six: Organize and Analyze the Data
Step Seven: Present and Use Market Research Findings
Define the Problem or Opportunity
The first step of the research process, defining the problem or opportunity, is often overlooked but it is crucial. The root cause of the problem is harder to identify than its obvious manifestations; for example, a decline in sales is a problem, but its underlying cause is what must be corrected. To define the problem, list every factor that may have influenced it, then eliminate any that cannot be measured. Examine this list while conducting research to see if any factors ought to be added, but don't let it unduly influence data collection.
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