You can conduct your own marketing research. Follow these steps, add your flair, knowledge, and creativity, and you’ll have tailor-made research to be proud of.
Marketing research are all those actions we conduct in the development, positioning, and evolution of our products or services, our customer base, and branding. It all starts with brand awareness. Like any research, it needs a solid process to be credible and useful.
Marketing research uses four essential key factors known as the ‘marketing mix’, or the Four Ps of Marketing:
- Product (goods or services)
- Price (how much the customer pays)
- Place (where the product is marketed)
- Promotion (such as advertising and PR)
These four factors must work in harmony for a product or service to be successful in the market.
What Are the Steps in the Marketing Research Process – Overview
A typical marketing research process is as follows:
- Identify a problem, discuss alternatives and establish research goals
- Develop a research program
- Choose a champion
- Gather information
- Collect data
- Organize and analyze information and data
- Present the results
- Make research-based decisions research-based decisions
- Act on the basis of intuitions
The first step in the Marketing Research Process is Identifying the Marketing Research Problem
In many ways, research begins with a management problem. This problem must be understood, the cause diagnosed and the solutions developed.
But, most management problems are not always easily researched, so they must first be transformed into research problems. Once you approach the problem from a research point of view, a solution can be found.
For example, “sales don’t grow” is a management problem, but translated into a search problem, it becomes “why don’t sales grow?” We can examine the expectations and experiences of different groups: prospects, first buyers, and repeat buyers. We can ask ourselves if the lack of sales is due to:
- Low expectations leading to a general lack of desire to buy, or
- Poor performance experience and lack of desire to buy again.
This, then, is the difference between a management problem and a research problem. Solving Management Problems Focus on Actions: Do We Advertise More? Shall we change our advertising message? Shall we change an underperforming product configuration? And if so, how?
Defining Research Problems, on the other hand, focuses on the whys and hows, providing the insights you need to solve your management problem.
Step 2: Develop a research program: survey method
The scientific method is the standard for investigation. It gives you the opportunity to use existing knowledge as a starting point and to proceed impartially.
The scientific method includes the following steps:
- Define a problem
- Develop a hypothesis
- Make predictions based on a hypothesis
- Develop a hypothesis test
- Conduct the test
- Analyze the results
This terminology is similar to the steps in the search process. However, there are subtle differences in how the steps are performed:
- the scientific method is objective and fact-based, uses quantitative research and impartial analysis
- the marketing research process can be subjective, using qualitative opinion and research, as well as personal judgment while collecting and analyzing data
Step 3 in the Marketing Research Process – Developing a research program: research method
In addition to selecting an investigation method (objective or subjective), a research method must be selected. There are two primary methodologies that can be used to answer any research question:
- Experimental Research: You control the variables and manipulate one or more variables that influence the ongoing process.
- Non-experimental research: you can observe, but not intervene – all you do is evaluate and report the results.
Step 4: Develop a research program: the research design
Research design allows you to conduct marketing research and collect data. Those are the specific methods and procedures you can use to get the information you need.
There are three main types of marketing research designs: exploratory, descriptive, and causal.
Exploratory marketing research
This is a starting point for research. It is used to reveal facts and opinions on a particular topic, and to get an idea of the main points of an issue. Exploratory research is too dull a tool to base definitive business decisions on, but it lays the foundation for a more focused study. Secondary research materials such as trade publications, books, magazines, and journals and primary research using qualitative metrics can be used, which can include open-text surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
Descriptive marketing research
This helps define the business problem or issue so companies can make decisions, take action and track progress. Descriptive research is naturally quantitative – it needs to be statistically measured and analyzed, using more targeted surveys and questionnaires. It can be used to capture demographic information, evaluate a product or service for the market, and monitor the opinion and behavior of a target audience.
Causal Marketing Research
This is useful for exploring the cause and effect relationship between two or more variables. Like descriptive research, it uses quantitative methods, but it doesn’t just report results; uses experiments to predict and test theories about a product or market. For example, researchers can change the design or material of the product’s packaging and measure what happens to sales as a result.
Step 5: Choose your sample
When identifying and implementing what are the steps in the Marketing Research Process, sampling has a paramount position.
Your marketing research project will rarely look at an entire population. It is more practical to use a sample – a smaller but accurate representation of the larger population. To design your sample, you will need to answer these questions:
- From which basic population should the sample be selected? When you establish who your target population is, you have a basis for your sample.
- What is the method (process) for sample selection? There are two methods of selecting a sample from a population:
- Probability Sampling: It is based on a random sampling of everyone within the larger population.
- Non-probabilistic sampling: This is based in part on the researcher’s judgment, and often uses convenience samples, or other sampling methods that are not based on probability.
This important step involves cost and accuracy decisions. Larger samples generally reduce the error margin and increase accuracy, but also increase costs.
Step 6: Collect data
Your research project will develop as you choose the techniques to use. There are many ways to collect data, and we will differentiate them into O-data (Operational) and X-data (Experience):
- O-data are the real numbers of your business such as costs, accounting and sales. They tell you what happened, but not why.
- X-data gives you an insight into the thoughts and emotions of the people involved: employees, customers, brand advocates.
When you combine O-data with X-data, you will be able to build a more complete picture of success and failure – you will know why. Perhaps you have seen a drop in sales (O-data) for a particular product. Maybe customer service was lacking, the product was out of stock, or the ad wasn’t impactful enough or different: X-data will reveal why those sales dropped. So while the differentiation of these two datasets is important, when they are combined and work together, insights become powerful.
Mobile technology has made it easier to collect data. Polling is not done face-to-face anymore, but by mail or by telephone. Today, you have the following tools at your disposal:
- Social media (polls and listening)
Another way to collect data is observation. Observing the past or present behavior of a customer or company can predict future purchasing decisions, like market segmentation, customer journey mapping, and brand tracking.
Regardless of how you collect the data, the process introduces another essential element to your research project: the importance of clear and constant communication.
And of course, in order to analyze the information obtained with the techniques of investigation or observation, you have to record your results. Gone are the days of spreadsheets. Feedback from polls and listening channels can automatically feed AI-powered analytics engines and produce real-time results on dashboards.
Step 7: Analysis and interpretation
Statistical tests and data processing tools can reveal:
- Whether the trends in the data you see are significant or are just random results
- Your results in the context of other information you have
- If one thing that affects your business is more meaningful than others
- What should be your next research area
- Insights that lead to significant changes
There are several types of statistical analysis tools used for surveys. You should make sure that the ones you will choose:
- They work on any platform – mobile, desktop, tablet etc.
- They integrate with your existing systems
- They are easy to use with user-friendly interfaces, simple menus and automated data analysis
- They incorporate statistical analysis so that they don’t just
- process and present the data, but refine it and generate insights and predictions.
Here are some of the more common tools:
- Benchmarking: a way of taking external factors into account so that you can adjust the parameters of your research. Level the playing field – so your data and results are more meaningful in context. And it gives you a more accurate understanding of what is happening.
- Regression analysis: it is used to elaborate the relationship between two (or more) variables. It is useful for identifying the precise impact of a change in an independent variable.
- The T test is used to compare two sets of data that have different mean values. For example, do women and men have different average heights?
- Analysis of variance (ANOVA) Similar to the T-test, ANOVA is a way of testing for differences between three or more independent groups to see if they are statistically significant.
- Cluster Analysis: This organizes items into groups, or clusters, based on how closely they are associated.
- Factor Analysis: This is a way of condensing many variables into a few, so that your research data is less cumbersome to work with.
- Conjoint Analysis: This will help you understand and predict why people make the choices they make. It asks people to compromise when making decisions, just like they do in the real world, then analyzes the results to give the most popular result.
- Crosstab Analysis: This is a quantitative market research tool used to analyze ‘categorical data’ – variables that are diverse and mutually exclusive, such as: men ‘and’ women ‘, or’ under 30 ‘and’ over 30 ‘.
- Text Analysis and Sentiment Analysis: Human language and emotion analysis is a rapidly developing form of data processing that assigns positive, negative, or neutral sentiment to customer messages and feedback.
Stats IQ can run the most complicated statistical tests at the push of a button, using our online survey software or data from other sources.
Step 8: The results of the marketing research
Once you have a clear picture on what are the steps in the marketing research process, you implemented them as described above, it’s time to take a look at the results of your research.
Your marketing research process culminates in the search results. These should provide all the information stakeholders and decision-makers need to understand the project.
The results will include:
- all your information
- a description of your research process
- the results
- recommended courses of action
They should also be presented in an easy-to-understand form, language, and graphics, with a balance of completeness and conciseness, without leaving out important information or leaving it so technical that it overwhelms readers.
Traditionally, two written reports are prepared:
- a technical report, which discusses the methods, basic assumptions and detailed results of the research project
- a summary report, which summarizes the research process and simply presents the results and conclusions.
There are now more engaging ways to present your findings than traditional PowerPoint presentations, charts, and face-to-face reports:
- Live and interactive dashboards to share the most important information and to monitor a project in real time.
- Report views – tables or graphs with visual data on a shareable slide deck
- Online presentation technology, such as Prezi
- Visual stories with infographics
- A one-page executive summary with key insights
- A single page statistics sheet with top-line statistics
You can also make these results shareable so that decision-makers have all the information at their fingertips.
Step 9 Turn your insights into action
Insights are one thing, but they are worth very little if they don’t inform immediate, positive action. Here are some examples of how you can do this:
- Prevent customers from leaving – negative sentiment among VIP customers is picked up; the customer service team contacts customers, solves their problems, and avoids churn.
- Act on important employee concerns – you can set certain topics, such as safety, or diversity and inclusion to trigger an automatic notification or Slack message to HR. They can act quickly to fix the problem.
- Addressing product problems – maybe deliveries are late, maybe too many products are faulty. When product feedback is collected through Smart Conversations, messages can be triggered for delivery or product teams to resolve the issue immediately.
- Improve Marketing Effectiveness – Understand how your marketing is received by potential customers, so you can find ways to better meet their needs
- Grow your brand – Understand exactly what consumers are looking for, so you can make sure their expectations are met
What Are the Steps in the Marketing Research Process? – Conclusion
Now that we have seen what are the steps in the marketing research process, analyzed the results, and acted upon them, we are ready to optimize and just wait out for the fruits of our work.
Marketing research is an essential element of any business that wants to see results and growth. Without it, you will never get the full potential of your brand, but if conducted in an optimal fashion there are no limits to your success.