Who should carry out the research is a very valid question. Do the marketing managers have the right skills and competences to do it themselves? Are they assigning an agency to do this job for them? These are basic considerations to take into account when addressing the captioned question.
Can the businesses dedicate sufficient time and resources to carry out the research themselves? The quality of the data to be collected during fieldwork may be threatened if the sponsor is identified as the surveyor. Marketing managers are expected to act in an assertive and vocal manner. They can sometimes encounter difficulties in adopting a neutral role, particularly when they are researching the market. However, it is important for managers to engage with customers. The research fieldwork would surely increase their understanding of the market in which they operate. It would also give them a better idea of what to expect from other researchers. It may be possible for the marketing managers to get involved in the fieldwork during the pilot stage of the questionnaire.
This will give them a greater appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the questionnaire. Most businesses that are serious about customer-centric marketing will have dedicated market research departments; with at least some skilled and experienced members of staff, who would be capable of gathering and analysing data. For instance, airlines use their own staff to carry out day-to-day market research, including an ongoing flight survey analysis. However, airlines may occasionally recruit external research consultants. External researchers will work in a more objective manner than internal researchers. They will also bring fresh ideas with them.
When external research is commissioned, the role of the airlines’ managers is to define the research problem. They are expected to specify to the researchers their objectives, and to clarify on the information required. It is crucial that they act on the research results after they have been carefully analysed and processed.
Preparing a Brief
The business that is commissioning research should consider a list of specialised agencies which may be appropriate for them. They should choose a reputable research organisation according to its capabilities and expertise. Once a research organisation is chosen, the business should provide a brief to the research organisation, which should include; the business and research objectives; suggestions on how market and consumer data can be collected; the type of research being envisioned (by clearly indicating what are the businesses expectations from this project); question areas to be covered during the research; a realistic time table; and a budget:
Some may argue that, by revealing to the agency that a large amount of money is available, there is a danger that they will find ways to spend the budgeted figures. It is advisable that the commissioning business will ask for quotes from several research agencies before committing itself with one of them.
The Research Agency’s Proposal
After the agency has been briefed, the agencies should then return a proposal to the business, by an agreed date. The proposal could include the following elements:
a) Statement of objectives: A statement of objectives should clearly reflect the list of objectives that were presented to them, in the brief;
b) Description of how the research will be done: This includes a description of the various research methods that will be used for data collection. They should give details on the sampling method. A breakdown of questionnaire content should be included, as should details on all the data analytical processes to be undertaken. That is, the coding of data and the statistical analysis of quantitative findings. Alternatively, they could explain how qualitative data will be analysed, et cetera. The agency should justify its decision for adopting specific methodologies;
c) Reporting: The proposal should highlight how the research findings will be presented. The proposal should give details on the presentation and tabulation of results.
d) Costs: The agency should also present a clear breakdown of the individual costs for the research project.
Implementation of the Research Plan
Once the management has defined the problem, delineated their research objectives and decided on what information they require, they should proceed to the next stage of the research process. They are expected to design the survey questionnaire and / or prepare a brief for their field interviews.
When the questionnaires have been constructed and tested, it’s time for them to start gathering the data. This entails engaging with a sample of respondents, and examining other research options. This process should be closely monitored (by the marketing manager or the research agency, as appropriate) to ensure that the collected data is valid, reliable and trustworthy.
This stage is the most expensive part of the data collection process, and the agency or the organisations’ management should continuously monitor how the research is being is carried out.
The members of staff who are gathering data have be objective whilst collecting their data, throughout the research fieldwork.
Having collected the data, marketers must then interpret their findings. Interpretation is easier if the data analytical methods are carefully planned in the research process. The results of the collected data may be a large pile of completed survey questionnaires (if the researchers have used printed questionnaires). Alternatively, the researchers could have annotated their qualitative data in the form of transcripts. The way how the gathered data is analysed and presented is an influential factor of how valuable the research will be. Many research agencies are increasingly using computer software packages to statistically analyse their quantitative findings.
The researchers will draw their own conclusions in writing and may also use data tables. The statistical analyses usually focus on the results, and on what deviates from the variable being measured. These findings will be analysed and interpreted by the researchers, and presented to the respective marketing managers. It is important that they will be in a position to understand the main findings and the research implications.
Preparation and Presentation of a Research Report
The following section provides a useful guideline of what should be featured in a research report. The report will communicate the research findings and the implications of study to the decision makers. Key elements in the report are presented here:
1) Title Page (this area lists the title, client, research agency, date, et cetera);
2) List of Contents;
4) Summary of the Findings or Conclusions (the summary of the main findings may be accompanied by recommendations);
Points 1-4 provide a concise report of the nature and outcome of the research programme.
5) Previous Related Research (This section indicates how previous knowledge may have a bearing on the research at hand);
6) Research Method (Procedures that are used to collect information; How was the research conducted? – How was the research carried out? – Who were the research participants? – What were the research techniques that were used in the analysis? – The characteristics and size of samples should also be recorded;
7) Results (It is important to provide clear, simple and a logical presentation of the research findings. The results are usually presented through paragraphs, tables and graphs);
Points 5-9 provide the detailed evidence from which conclusions, implications and recommendation are derived.
Generally, a report seldom provides answers to all of the research questions under investigation. Thus, the research limitations will have to be pointed out in the report, along with reasonable explanations of the potential weaknesses of the research methodologies, sampling frames and analytical techniques that were employed in the study. Moreover, the research report will only be valuable to the commissioning business it the marketing managers would make a good use of its key findings and recommendations.
This is a excerpt from one of my latest chapters.
How to Cite: Camilleri, M. A. (2018). Understanding customer needs and wants. In Travel marketing, tourism economics and the airline product (pp. 29-50). Springer, Cham. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-49849-2_2