Marketing Research Backs Up Strategies
Nucifora, Alf, THE JOURNAL RECORD
Why are so many important marketing decisions made based on whim, conjecture and gut feel?
In some cases that's the only way to make a decision. Perfect information simply isn't available and smart marketers quite often have an innate sense of what will and will not work. But far too often the requisite background information that will support a smart marketing decision is available. Marketers choose not to seek it out because of lack of time, money or energy and in an alarming number of cases out of pure ignorance.
What type of information should you buy? There are numerous research methodologies, most of which are outside the realm of this discussion because of their complexity and cost. For the traditional small business, the discussion may be narrowed to two basic branches, quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research, as the name implies, quantifies the verdict, e.g., X percent bought the product; Y percent have never seen the advertising. Quantitative research states the facts from which conclusions may be drawn. Assuming the research is "clean" -- correct sampling technique, statistical validity -- the results will be accurate and given an absence of any flaw in the methodology, accurate marketing conclusions can be surmised and strategies developed. For the the average small business, quantitative research will involve surveying techniques. These might include mail or phone surveys, store intercepts (intercepting customers inside/outside the store with clipboard and questionnaire), even the simple "How did we do?" cards that are distributed at point-of-sale or subsequent to the sale (there's one in most hotel rooms). The registration cards that drop out of the new stereo component box are nothing more than quantitative surveying. Quantitative surveys can be expensive. For instance, a mail survey with a minimum of 500 respondents can cost in the range of $20,000 to $30,000, which includes sample design, questionnaire and list development, printing, mailing, computer tabulation of results and preparation of final report. But the small business owner can undertake a marketing survey at a much lower price. How? * Keep the research simple. Don't overload the survey with too many questions. * Seek assistance in the development of the methodology and the questionnaire; execute the rest yourself, i.e., printing, mailing, postage, tabulation, etc. * Use college interns and staff (during their downtime if they have any) to conduct phone surveys using a company 1-800 number. Qualitative research seeks meaning and understanding behind the action or the belief. It seeks to understand why the respondent/participant/consumer does what he does; thinks the way she thinks. It deals with thoughts, ideas, concepts, beliefs, goals, aspirations, needs, desires ... .all the diagnostic issues that are so hard to capture in a quantitative survey and that require a more in-depth questioning and response ... a dialog, in fact. The most common form of qualitative research today is the ubiquitous focus group, a technique whereby 10 to 12 participants gather in a room and engage in discussion under the careful guidance and manipulation of an experienced focus group facilitator, whose job it is to guide the discussion to insure that relevant information is unearthed. …