Assess Available Information
Assess the information that is immediately available. It may be that current knowledge supports one or more hypotheses, and solutions to the problem may become obvious through the process of defining it. Weigh the cost of gathering more information against its potential usefulness.
Gather Additional Information
Before considering surveys or field experiments, look at currently held information: sales records, complaints, receipts, and any other records that can show where customers live and work, and how and what they buy. One small business owner found that addresses on cash receipts allowed him to pinpoint customers in his market area. With this kind of information he could cross-reference his customers' addresses and the products they purchased to check the effectiveness of his advertising. Customers' addresses tell much about them. Lifestyles and buying habits are often correlated with neighborhoods.
Credit records are an excellent source of information, giving information about customers' jobs, income levels, and marital status. Offering credit is a multifaceted marketing tool with well-known costs and risks. Employees may be the best source of information about customer likes and dislikes. They hear customers' minor gripes about the store or service the ones customers don't think important enough to take to the owner. Employees are aware of the items customers request that you do not stock. They can often supply good customer profiles from their day-to-day contacts.
Secondary research exploits published sources like surveys, books, and magazines, applying or rearranging the information in them to bear on the problem or opportunity at hand. A tire sales business owner might guess that present retail sales of tires is strongly correlated with sales of new cars three years ago. To test this idea, it's easy to compare new car sales records with replacement tire sales three years later. Done over a range of recent years, this should prove or disprove the hypothesis and help marketing efforts tremendously.
There are many sources of secondary research material. It can be found in libraries, colleges, trade and general business publications, and newspapers. Trade associations and government agencies are rich sources of information GALES' Directory is available at any public library.
Sources of Secondary Research
ASAE Directory of Associations Online
Ask a Librarian U.S. Library of Congress
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Business Research Lab
Center for Business Women's Research
Economic Statistics & Research
Internet Public Library
Population & Demography Resources
Primary research can be as simple as asking customers or suppliers how they feel about a business or as complex as surveys conducted by professional marketing research firms.
Direct mail questionnaires, telephone surveys, experiments, panel studies, test marketing, and behavior observation are all examples of primary research.
Primary research is often divided into reactive and non-reactive research. Non-reactive primary research observes how real people behave in real market situations without influencing that behavior even accidentally. Reactive research, including surveys, interviews, and questionnaires, is best left to marketing professionals, as they can usually get more objective and sophisticated results. Those who can't afford high-priced marketing research services should consider asking nearby college or university business schools for help.
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Marketing Research part 2