Marketing research is a vital step for any business. It helps you make more informed business decisions when launching a new product or service or developing a new business strategy. But what is the first step in the marketing research process?
The first step in marketing research for better lead generation is identifying and defining the problems or opportunities. Every other step, like designing the right approach, data collection, etc., comes after that.
So, ignoring the preliminary step can leave you in the dark about the customer needs and purchasing habits. Only with proper research can you keep the guesswork out of the marketing game.
Since marketing research helps boost your lead generation, let’s dive into the details of marketing research. Read on!
What Is Marketing Research?
Marketing research refers to the process of measuring the success of a new product or service through consumer and market analysis. It is the blending of consumer behavior and economic trends that will help your business make the right moves.
It involves data accumulation regarding the target consumers and demographics. This is crucial whether you are a B2B or a B2C business, a large enterprise, or an SMB (small and midsize business).
With proper research of the market, you can better interpret:
- The market
- The existing and potential consumers
- The competition
- The products/services
- The Technology
- The industry outlook
Why is it important?
Despite realizing its importance, many businesses ignore its impact on the success of their business. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 20% of businesses in the US fail, and that too within the first year.
The number may not seem shocking at first. But given that there are 32.5 million small businesses around the country, the number can be frightening.
Now among the steep competition, it may not always be possible to assure success. But having solid marketing research on your side can surely help you gain the competitive edge you seek.
The marketing research process
Despite having different marketing goals, businesses follow some of the same core steps during the marketing research process. This can be done in-house, or companies can outsource the marketing research to third-party companies.
It is categorized into the following:
- Primary information by the in-house staff
- Secondary information from the third-party company
Marketing research combines the two and is the most reliable way to acquire it. It helps you cover three essential aspects of the market:
- The existing consumers
- The prospects
- The target users
Now there are many steps in the marketing research process. These include:
- Defining the problem or opportunity
- Developing a marketing research plan through surveys, tests, and consumer interviews
- Gathering relevant data
- Analysis of the collected data
- Putting everything into action
But it all starts with you identifying the opportunity or the problems of the market.
Defining the problems- the first step of marketing research
What is the first step in the marketing research process, you ask?
Well, it is the defining of the marketing research problems.
Defining the challenges of the market is the first and crucial step of the research procedure. Before collecting data or conducting research, you must first determine the areas where they will be fruitful.
Determining the problem or opportunity areas lets you figure out the data requirements and where to find them. This step gives you clarity about what to expect from the market and will help you define your goals.
Not knowing this or defining it incorrectly can jeopardize your marketing research.
The challenge is to see the management problems from a research point of view. However, most management problems in a business are difficult to define. So, the only way to address them is by surveying the customer needs, exploring different market segments, and finding the target market.
For example, product or market expansion challenges are management problems. But to be able to identify the need for that particular product and the satisfaction level of the consumers is a research problem.
As Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
While management problems revolve around the actions and symptoms, the marketing research problem is more data-driven and focused on the cause. In short, you must shift the focus from the results to the causes and determine the information requirements accordingly.
How to identify the marketing research problems?
The answer to the question, “what is the first step in the marketing research process?” is not a straightforward one. Defining the problems of marketing research has many stages in itself:
- The first part is to be able to determine the background or context of the problem.
- Next, you need to define the problems clearly, so the market study is justified.
- The third part consists of the methodology, sources, and data types.
This means the marketing researchers will have to acquire all the information if they are to address the problems. Also, your business needs to follow a guideline to help the researchers proceed with the work.
The definition of the problems cannot be too broad since it does not provide a clear guideline. Secondly, a scientific method is required to ensure the validity and reliability of the research.
Some common instances of marketing research problems are:
- What is the size of the target market?
- How many competitors are there in your preferred location?
- What are the most popular products or services in the same category as yours?
- What is the most attractive feature of your product?
You need to have sufficient data to answer such questions accurately. This includes everything from the color of your product to the brand website.
Any mistake in this field can cause a major failure
Take the famous Coca-Cola brand, for example. In the mid-1980s, the beverage giant made one of its biggest marketing blunders in its 130 years of legacy.
In the 1970s, when the sale of Coca-Cola started to fall, the company thought of changing the product’s flavor. They even conducted a blind product test which showed expected results for the “New Coke.”
But the brand failed to realize the emotional quotient and symbolic value of the brand among its consumers.
New Coke was a colossal failure, and Coca-Cola had to bring its old product back on the market.
Define your marketing research objectives
You first need to define the problem areas to have a clear objective. Only then can you evaluate the process with accuracy. Hence, an intelligent market objective has the following traits:
- They are to the point and sensibly derived
- They are defined by quantifiable goals, like cost, quality, and quantity
- They are based on realistic and relevant goals that are achievable
- There is a fixed timeline for achieving these goals
For example, wanting more website traffic is a poorly defined objective. But wanting a specific number of website visitors in a given period is an achievable goal.
Analyze the background of the problem
Analyzing the background is an excellent method that helps define the problem areas. This requires you to review the history and nature of the problem. You would also need to examine this consumer behavior and legal and environmental factors.
If you do not feel confident about this step, you can study how other brands have handled similar challenges. For example, customer satisfaction depends on many variables, like price, location, customer service quality, etc.
The best way to handle this is via interviewing the consumers and performing secondary data analysis. You can also interview industry experts and seek guidance from other decision-makers.
Recognize the variables
Speaking of variables, there are many changing quantities or qualities involved with this aspect.
Ideally, a single marketing research objective consists of one or two variables. However, you must be very cautious while choosing the appropriate variables. Otherwise, you could make the same mistake as Coca-Cola.
The best way to practice this is by studying the effect of the variables on the solution to the problem. You can also determine the functional relationship within each variable and predict the degree to which you can control each one.
What are the steps in marketing research?
Marketing research involves many stages that make it accurate and successful. They are as follows:
- Defining the problems or opportunities of marketing research
- A clear objective for the research
- Planning the research design
- collecting and analyzing the correct data
- Taking action based on the deciphered conclusion
Is market research and marketing research the same?
Although both processes involve the consumers, they are not the same. Marketing research focuses more on the effectiveness of the advertising and marketing approach. On the other hand, market research involves the study of consumer behavior and the market as a whole.
Additionally, marketing research is the comprehensive component of the marketing information system, while market research is its branch.
What are the different types of market research?
Marketing research can be categorized into various types. For example,
- Primary research
- secondary research
- Qualitative research
- Quantitative research
- Customer observation, etc.
Now you know the answer to the question, “what is the first step in the marketing research process?”
Defining the research problem can start your marketing research on a high note. Moreover, it can also help you address the challenges of staying updated with the latest trends and technology.
Since you will be able to pick the proper metrics by defining the problems, it will help you conduct a more fruitful market analysis. You will also be able to address the questions and needs of the customers more efficiently. You can also improve your marketing campaign and create better engagement around it.
So, no matter which type of marketing research you want to conduct, you must always prioritize the first step for effortless execution.