Marketing research is the process of gathering information from consumers and business customers, depending on the type of products and services you sell. The way you interview these people is called a methodology or method of research. For example, you may procure information from consumers via the Internet, the method. The information you garner is called data. Marketing research professionals, whether at the analyst, manager or director level, usually analyze marketing research data. They then use it to recommend various marketing strategies.
There are two main types of marketing research: Quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research usually includes phone, mail, Internet or in-person interviews. Market researchers may do interviews in person if they are speaking with doctors, executives or other professionals that are hard to reach through phone surveys. These professionals usually have gatekeepers like secretaries, who relentlessly screen their bosses’ calls. Quantitative research is usually conducted in large numbers. In other words, the marketing research agency conducts hundreds of surveys so they can attain a representative sample. A representative sample is one that is statistically valid. The results can be projected with some degree of certainty across the general population.
Qualitative research is usually conducted before quantitative research. Qualitative research is conducted among smaller groups of people. It is more exploratory in nature. The information may be used to narrow the number of concepts a company has for specific products. For example, a restaurant may have four meal arrangements they are considering for one menu item. They can’t conduct phone surveys with all these meals because it would be too expensive. Instead, a qualitative project management company will first narrow the meals down to the most viable concept. And that is the one people select through qualitative research.
There are two main types of qualitative research: Focus groups and one-on-ones. Both of these qualitative research methods are usually conducted in focus group facilities. A moderator, or professional interviewer, usually conducts sessions for both of these qualitative research methods. In a focus group, people are questioned as a group. In one-on-ones, the moderator speaks with one person at a time. In both cases, managers from the client company usually observe the respondents behind a one-way mirror.
The moderator uses a discussion guide during both types of interviews. The qualitative project management team usually works with the moderator in developing the discussion guide. The guide is basically a detailed questionnaire. It provides the moderator with specific instructions on what to ask, how to ask it and the amount of time that should be spent on each question.
Focus groups usually consist of 8 to 12 people. The moderator will usually start out by describing the concept of a product or food item, including the dimensions, flavors, styles and price. Sometimes, samples of the product are shown. And people may even get to taste food items. However, concepts for more technical products may be limited to just the idea. Therefore, the moderators job is to determine the interest level among the group. Moderators often use scales to measure interest. For example, a rating of 5 may indicate a person is “Very Interested” in the product.
Qualitative project management companies usually have moderators run one-on-ones in similar fashion. Software company employees, for example, may actually watch each participant use its software. Managers may watch to see if people have any difficulties using the software. Companies try to iron out all problems with qualitative interviews. That way they eliminate most of the minutiae when it comes time to do the quantitative interviews.