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Marketing Research Process

Introduction to Marketing Research

Research always starts with a question or a problem. The purpose of research is to find answer to the question or solution to the problem through the application of scientific method. Research is a systematic and intensive study directed towards a more complete knowledge of the subject studied. Research in common context refers to a search for knowledge. It can also be defined as a scientific and systematic search for gaining information and knowledge on a specific topic or phenomena.

The aim of marketing management is to satisfy the needs of the consumer. Marketing research helps in achieving this. Marketing research is a systematic and logical way of assessing ways of satisfying customer needs. Marketing Research starts by stating the problem or the issue to be investigated; indicate what kind of information is required to resolve the problem; identify where and how to get it; specify the methodology for analyzing the research findings; sum up the research findings and then suggest the best solution for marketing decision making.

Definition of Marketing Research

According to American Marketing Association, Marketing Research can be defined as - "The systematic gathering, recording, and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services".

Process of Marketing Research

Marketing research process involves a number of interrelated activities which have bearing on each  other. Following are the various steps involved in marketing research processMarketing research process involves a number of interrelated activities which have bearing on each
other. Following are the various steps involved in marketing research process:-
  1. Formulating the Research Problem
  2. Method of Inquiry
  3. Research Method
  4. Determining Research Design
  5. Data Collection Techniques
  6. Sample Design
  7. Data Collection
  8. Analysis and Interpretation
  9. Research Report

Formulating the Research Problem
Formulating a problem is the first step in the research process. In many ways, research starts with a problem that management is facing. This problem needs to be understood, the cause diagnosed, and solutions developed. However, most management problems are not always easy to research. A management problem must first be translated into a research problem. Once you approach the problem from a research angle, you can find a solution.

Once you’ve created a research problem, you have to develop a research question. A research question gives your research direction. From the research question, a hypothesis or hypotheses can be formulated to guide the research. A hypothesis should include a statement about the relationship between two or more variables and carry clear implications for testing the stated relationship.

How to formulate the research problem?
  • Specify the Research Objectives - A clear statement of objectives will help you develop effective research. It will help the decision makers evaluate your project. It’s critical that you have manageable objectives.
  • Review the Environment or Context of the Problem - Identify the environmental variables that will affect the research project.
  • Explore the Nature of the Problem - Research problems range from simple to complex, depending on the number of variables and the nature of their relationship. If you understand the nature of the problem as a researcher, you will be able to better develop a solution for the problem.
  • Define the Variable Relationships - Determine which variable affect the solution to the problem, determine the degree to which each variable can be controlled, determine the functional relationship between the variables.
  • The Consequences of Alternative Course of Action - There are always consequences to any course of action. Anticipating and communicating the possible outcomes of various courses of action is a primary responsibility in the research process.

Method of Inquiry
The scientific method is the standard pattern for investigation. It provides an opportunity for you to use existing knowledge as a starting point and proceed impartially. The scientific method includes the following steps:-
  • Formulate a Problem
  • Develop a Hypothesis
  • Making Predictions on the Basis of Hypothesis
  • Test of the Hypothesis
  • Conduct the Test
  • Analyze the Result

The terminology is similar to the stages in the research process. However, there are subtle differences in the way the steps are performed. For example, the scientific method is objective while the research process can be subjective. Objective-based research (quantitative research) relies on impartial analysis.

Research Method
There are two primary methodologies that can be used to answer any research question: experimental research and non-experimental research. Experimental research gives you the advantage of controlling extraneous variables and manipulating one or more variables that influences the process being implemented. Non-experimental research allows observation but not intervention. You simply observe and report on your findings.

Research Design
The research design is a plan or framework for conducting the study and collecting data. It is defined as the specific methods and procedures you use to acquire the information you need.

Data Collection Techniques
There are many ways to collect data. Two important methods to consider are interviews and observation.

Interviews require you to ask questions and receive responses. Common modes of research communication include interviews conducted face-to-face, by mail, by telephone, by email, or over the Internet. This broad category of research techniques is known as survey research. These techniques are used in both non-experimental research and experimental research.

Another way to collect data is by observation. Observing a person’s or company’s past or present behavior can predict future purchasing decisions. Data collection techniques for past behavior can include analyzing company records and reviewing studies published by external sources.

Sample Design
Your marketing research project will rarely examine an entire population. It’s more practical to use a sample - a smaller but accurate representation of the greater population. In order to design your sample, you must find answers to these questions:-
  • From which base population is the sample to be selected?
  • What is the method for sample selection?
  • What is the size of the sample?

Once you’ve established who the relevant population is, you have a base for your sample. This will allow you to make inferences about a larger population. There are two methods of selecting a sample from a population: probability or non-probability sampling. The probability method relies on a random sampling of everyone within the larger population. Non-probability is based in part on the judgment of the investigator, and often employs convenience samples, or by other sampling methods that do not rely on probability.

The final stage of the sample design involves determining the appropriate sample size. This important step involves cost and accuracy decisions. Larger samples generally reduce sampling error and increase accuracy, but also increase costs.

Data Collection
Depending on the mode of data collection, this part of the process can require large amounts of personnel and a significant portion of your budget. Personal (face-to-face) and telephone interviews may require you to use a data collection agency (field service). Internet surveys require fewer personnel, are lower cost, and can be completed in days rather than weeks or months.

Analysis and Interpretation
In order for data to be useful, you must analyze it. Analysis techniques vary and their effectiveness depends on the types of information you are collecting, and the type of measurements you are using. Because they are dependent on the data collection, analysis techniques should be decided before this step.

Research Report
The research process culminates with the research report. This report will include all of your information, including an accurate description of your research process, the results, conclusions, and recommended courses of action. The report should provide all the information the decision maker needs to understand the project. It should also be written in language that is easy to understand. It’s important to find a balance between completeness and conciseness. You don’t want to leave any information out; however, you can’t let the information get so technical that it overwhelms the reading audience.

One approach to resolving this conflict is to prepare two reports: the technical report and the summary report. The technical report discusses the methods and the underlying assumptions. In this document, you discuss the detailed findings of the research project. The summary report, as its name implies, summarizes the research process and presents the findings and conclusions as simply as possible.

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