A Quick Guide to the Marketing Research Process

There are 5 main steps in the marketing research process. Following these steps systematically is key to successful and grounded marketing research.

In the 20th century, Kodak was the most dominant force in the camera industry, having accounted for 90% of film and 85% of camera sales in America. After over 40 years and a series of questionable decision-making, Kodak declared itself bankrupt and has become the go-to case study topic for marketing myopia. 

Kodak is a perfect example of why conducting marketing research is crucial for a company’s survival. 

Knowing how to conduct marketing research is just as important as knowing the why of marketing research. This calls for knowing the marketing research process, its methodologies, approaches, and helpful tools to use in each step.  

There are 5 steps in the marketing research process:

  1. Determining the research objectives
  2. Designing the research plan
  3. Collecting the required data
  4. Interpreting, analyzing, and reporting the data
  5. Implementing the research findings

Table of Contents

1. Determining the research objectives

The first step in the marketing research process is to define business problems and research objectives.

Businesses face problems constantly from all sides — marketing, product innovation, logistics, and so on. The purpose of marketing research then is to gather information to aid in decision-making and eliminate business problems. For example, finding out which marketing channel to use and reach your target market.

Marketing research should be systematic and efficient; each step of the process has to be well-planned and conducted methodically to avoid backtracking. 

During the first step of the marketing research process, take time to consult management and relevant stakeholders. Also, focus on literal definitions of business problems rather than explaining them. Marketing research should be done impartially, and describing problems rather than diagnosing them will help prevent personal bias.

After you have listed out your business problems, it’s time to determine the marketing research objectives. There are three types of marketing research objectives that you can use. They are exploratory research, descriptive research, and causal research.

Types of marketing research

Descriptive research Causal research
Exploring ideas and directions for further research
Examining the characteristics of a sample
Exploring the cause-effect relationship between two or more variables
E.g., “Can you describe how you learned about our products?”
E.g., “What social media channels do you use the most?”
E.g., “How does advertising on Instagram improve brand awareness?”

Exploratory research: If you don’t know where to begin, you should start with exploratory research to articulate ideas that lead to further research. Exploratory research is quite broad and mainly explores your customers’ sentiments, perceptions, and attitudes toward something. 

Descriptive research: Once you have a more defined idea of the business problem, you can move on to descriptive research. In descriptive research, you gather information about your customers’ characteristics, such as their psychographics, to help you make better decisions. 

Causal research: After you have gathered a substantial amount of data, you can move on to forming hypotheses and tactics to solve your business problems. Here, you can use causal research to assess the effectiveness of those hypotheses through controlled experimentations, A/B testing, or observation.

2. Designing the research plan

After defining the business problems and research objectives, we can move on to the second step of the marketing research process – designing the research plan. 

During the first step of the marketing research process, you determined the why of conducting a research study. Now, it’s time to plan out how to collect this data. Usually, this step is accompanied by consultations with management, industry experts, running simulations, and analyzing case studies

There are two ways to collect data: through primary research or secondary research. Primary research is when you do the dirty work of collecting first-hand data, whereas secondary research is gathering data that other parties have already collected. 

Deciding between primary or secondary research depends on your budget, time constraint, human capital, available tools, and the type of data required. Most marketing research is a mix of primary and secondary research. 

You should take advantage of prior research whenever possible as it is more cost-effective than primary research. Secondary research allows you to understand the existing literature and provide inspiration for any research gaps you identify. You can then conduct your primary research more efficiently. 

Pros and cons of primary research:

Relevant, specific, and original data

Ownership of the research methods and questions

You gain first-hand experience with your target audience

 

❌ Costly

❌ More time-consuming and can take months or years

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Pros and cons of secondary research:

Less time taken 

✅ More affordable and easier to obtain

Vast amounts of data available including related subjects — perfect for exploratory research

 

❌ Secondary data can be outdated and uncredible

❌ Data may not be relevant or specific to your business problem

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What kind of questions should I ask during marketing research?

The questions you should ask in your marketing research study depend on your research objectives and the business problems you want to solve. However, if you don’t know what to ask, here are a few pointers to help you get started. 

Demographics

Forming a buyer persona and knowing your current and potential customers is an excellent first step in marketing research. Some valuable information to find out include their age, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, education level, profession, household income and size, and residence. 

Examples of demographic marketing research questions:

  • What is your age?
  • Where do you live?
  • What is your education level?
  • What is your profession?

Psychographic

Another crucial part of marketing research is finding out consumers’ activities, interests, and opinions (AIOs). Some psychological traits of consumers that you should find out include their hobbies, beliefs, social class, personality traits, values, and lifestyles. 

Examples of psychographic marketing research questions: 

  • How do you spend your free time?
  • Which of the following values is most important to you? 
  • If money wasn’t an issue, how would you spend your time?
  • What is your preferred method of purchasing?

 

Competitive analysis

In the study, ‘Secret Life of Search,’ 82% of the participants selected brands they were already familiar with when asked to choose on Google SERPs. Finding out who and more importantly, why your competitors are established is a great way to start your marketing research study. 

Not only that, but researching your competitors also saves time and money. Your competitors have figured out what works in the market, and all that’s left is to find ways to outperform them.

Examples of competitive analysis marketing research questions:

  • How often have you seen advertisements of Brand XYZ on YouTube?
  • How would you describe the services of Brand XYZ?
  • How often do you shop from Brand XYZ?
  • Rank these 5 brands from best to worst in terms of customer service.

Customer feedback and user experience

Existing customers and internal databases are often an untapped gold mine of valuable data. Your existing customers are readily available and are more than willing to provide honest feedback on how to improve your products and services. 

Don’t forget to reward them for participating in your marketing research study! Incentivizing your existing customers to help improve your product is a great way to increase your research sample size as well as build a better relationship with your target audience. 

Examples of customer feedback marketing research questions:

  • How did you come to know about our brand?
  • What made you choose us over Competitor XYZ?
  • How often do you shop from our brand?
  • How did our products and services solve your problem?

3. Collecting the required data

After you’ve planned the why and how of your marketing research project, it’s time to conduct the research.

There are many methods that you can choose when collecting primary and secondary data. For an effective marketing research project, try to mix and match these methodologies according to your available resources and time. 

Making full use of your financial and human capital will not only provide the highest quality data sets but will also help you to meet tight deadlines, especially if it is a large-scale research project. 

At the same time, always document any collected primary and secondary data and convert them into written text whenever possible. This will be useful later on when you want to analyze large amounts of data or for circulation among stakeholders. 

Why is accurate transcription an important part of the marketing research process?

Throughout your marketing research, you should use accurate transcription services to speed up the research process, optimize workflows, and reduce overall costs. 

When conducting primary research, it is common practice to video record the interview session for further analysis. However, each session can go for hours at a time, making it impossible for researchers to analyze large amounts of data efficiently. 

Transcriptions convert those chunks of data into a more user-friendly format with timestamps, speaker differentiation, and even categorizing data sets into different demographics

Accurate transcripts are also vital for marketing research by ensuring that decisions made are informed and well-grounded in unbiased research. 

With our automated transcription services, you can prepare the transcript during the interviews which are ready for analysis immediately afterward. Moreover, our software will automatically identify key moments and sentiments that you can search for in the centralized media database. 

Make inefficient research transcription and analysis workflows a thing of the past. Try 14 days of premium access to Speak today. No credit card required.

Methods of primary marketing research?

Methods of secondary marketing research

These methods differ significantly in time required, cost, and research expertise. However, if you are new and are conducting market research for a small business, it makes sense to employ cost-effective data collection methods. 

If you’d like to learn more about doing market research for your small business, our step-by-step guide to marketing research for small businesses could help you understand how to conduct small-scale research without compromising your results. 

4. Interpreting, analyzing, and reporting the data

You’ve identified the business problems, determined the research objectives, planned and conducted the data collection. If you went through all those steps thoroughly, you should now have high-quality, precise data sets ready for analysis. 

When analyzing data, what you want to look for are trends and patterns. Usually, this means running your data through analysis software or enlisting the help of a data scientist. Some common patterns to look out for are downwards trends, upwards trends, or correlations between two data groups. 

To spot out patterns and trends better, you should also present your data in graphs, scatter plots, charts, and tables. These will help you present your research in a more visually pleasing manner and help you make sense of your data better. 

Some helpful questions to ask yourself when analyzing data include:

  • Are there any recurring themes in what customers say about you? 
  • Are there recurring themes in what customers say about your competitors?
  • Are there any odd patterns in your quantitative data that result in sales differences?

 

How well you identify these trends and patterns in your data set and transform them into actionable insights determines whether your market research was a success or failure. These insights should also translate into tactics that benefit your broader business objectives.

What is researcher bias?

You want to avoid researcher bias as much as possible throughout the marketing research process. Researcher bias is when you skew the direction of your market research based on your implicit bias and innate attitudes toward certain subjects. 

For example, stereotypes about ethnicities and their purchasing patterns may result in a misinterpretation of data and in turn, misguided decision-making.

Completely eliminating personal bias throughout the marketing research process is impossible, but there are ways for you to minimize the impact of your biases on your results. 

How to eliminate researcher bias in market research

Researcher bias is prevalent when the market research is done by a single person or in a team that suffers from groupthink. Try to have diverse opinions on the research data, objectives, and research questions as a rule of thumb.

Have multiple people involved in the research project: You should always conduct marketing research in a group to prevent personal bias and ensure consistency in data interpretation. 

Verify your data: Ensure that your secondary data is taken from credible and authentic sources. Also, invite your research participants to cross-check their data and correct any errors or misinterpretations. 

Conduct statistical analysis: Research tools and software are a reliable way to analyze quantitative data accurately and reduce statistical bias

Enlist the help of professionals: Data scientists and professional market researchers are trained to eliminate bias and pre-existing ideas in any research.

Be aware of your own biases: Identify your implicit biases and be aware of them before and throughout the marketing research process. 

Techniques for analyzing marketing research data

There are dozens of techniques that you can utilize to analyze and interpret your data. Using suitable techniques depends on the type of research, the nature of the data sets, and your research expertise. 

Here are 10 techniques for analyzing marketing research data that you can get started with:

  1. Text and sentiment analysis: Breaking down chunks of data into separate topics, sentiments, and emotions will help you discover overlooked patterns and valuable insights. 

 

  1. Empathy map: An empathy map is a way to visualize your target customer’s persona and understand their needs. 

 

  1. Perceptual map: A perceptual map compares where your brand stands in comparison with other brands. 

 

  1. BCG Matrix (Growth-Share Matrix): Created by Boston Consulting Group, the BCG Matrix graphically represents your company’s strategic business units based on their market share and market growth. 

 

  1. Ansoff Matrix (Product/Market Expansion Grid): The Ansoff Matrix is a popular tool used by marketers to assess risk and devise suitable strategies for business growth. 

 

  1. Cluster analysis: In cluster analysis, market researchers clump data sets into different categories (e.g., demographics into different market segments) and examine the relationship between these categories. 

 

  1. Cross-tabulation analysis: Cross-tabulation analysis involves categorizing quantitative data into two sections on a table and analyzing the relationship between them.  

 

  1. Trend analysis: Trend analysis aims to identify patterns in quantitative data in the short, medium, and long term. 

 

  1. Benchmarking analysis: Benchmarking analysis is a strategy in assessing your organization or your competitors’ position in the industry, followed by identifying ways to enhance your company’s processes and competitive advantages. 

 

  1. Professional services: Sometimes, hiring professional researchers and data scientists is the most efficient way to obtain reliable and actionable insights without succumbing to researcher bias. 

Reporting the research findings

All your marketing research efforts, documentations, and analyses have led to this step: summarizing your research findings and reporting them to relevant stakeholders. 

Your marketing research report should contain:

  • Executive summary
  • Business problems and research objectives
  • Processes followed
  • Results
  • Conclusions
  • Recommended steps

5. Implementing the research findings

Technically, the marketing research process has ended with the creation of the marketing research report. However, marketing research is rarely a one-and-done process; marketing research involves continually testing hypotheses and making adjustments based on real-world performances. 

Once you have formulated a marketing strategy based on your research findings, you should test them through field trials, experimentations, or A/B testing. You should also constantly monitor your performance metrics and adjust your strategy if KPIs aren’t being met. 

tl;dr - Key Takeaways

The core purpose of marketing research is to gather information to assist in decision-making and eliminate business problems. Marketing research should be systematic, well-planned, and thoroughly documented. 

There are three main types of marketing research: exploratory research, descriptive research, and causal research. Furthermore, data collection for market research involves either primary research, secondary research, or a mix of both. 

The marketing research process consists of 5 steps:

  1. Determining the research objectives
  2. Designing the research plan
  3. Collecting the required data
  4. Interpreting, analyzing, and reporting the data
  5. Implementing the research findings

 

Regardless of what methods and techniques you employ throughout the marketing research process, always strive to reduce researcher bias as much as possible. You should have your research findings peer-reviewed with other team members, research participants, or relevant stakeholders. 

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