Chapter 5: Summary
This chapter explored the search for information about the customer and the market. This constitutes the listening part of the marketing dialogue. Marketing research is also needed to assist managers in the decision-making process and to analyze organizational performance. To be viable, however, the benefits derived from marketing research need to exceed the cost of conducting such research.
A systematic research approach will lead to the development of a Market Information System (MIS) that contains information both internal and external to the firm. Important internal data sources are performance analyses, sales reports and employees’ ongoing experience. The more data the intelligence system receives and the more precisely the system can process the available data, the better it can serve the manager. It is therefore important to develop ways of entering nonnumerical reports, such as accounts from a sales conversation or information about customer interests. New technology can enable an MIS to alter communication and decision structures within a firm but also requires careful planning of information distribution and retention.
External information can be derived from either secondary or primary data. Secondary data, collected in response to someone else’s questions, are obtained through desk research and are available quickly and at a low cost. Main sources of secondary data are internal databases, libraries, directories, newsletters, commercial information providers, trade associations, and electronic information services. To ensure their usefulness, the researcher must determine the quality of the data source, the quality of the actual data, and the compatibility of the data with information requirements. Primary data are collected directly on behalf of a specific research project. Typical ways of obtaining such data are through syndicated research—such as retail audits, panel research, or omnibus surveys—and custom research.
The first step of primary marketing research is to clearly define the objectives to ensure the usefulness of the research. Next, the research level needs to be decided. Exploratory research helps mainly in identifying problems, descriptive research provides information about existing market phenomena, and causal research sheds light on the relationships between market factors. The research approach then determines whether qualitative or quantitative data will be collected. Observation, in-depth interviews, and focus groups are primary techniques to yield qualitative data, which may be very insightful but are not fully generalizable and cannot be analyzed statistically. Quantitative data overcome these problems but require the systematic collection of large numbers of data. Experimentation and survey research are the primary research tools. Good survey research must concentrate on question design and structure to elicit useful responses. Data can then be collected by mail (postal mail or e-mail), by using online applications e.g. SurveryMonkey, by telephone, or in-person after an appropriate sample frame is constructed. The data need to be analyzed with appropriate techniques to make the data set comprehensible, insightful, and useful for management. This usefulness is at the heart of the research report, which in essence is a communication process persuading recipients to use the information.