How do you Research your Market?

If Marketing is about identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer needs profitably, then Market Research is paramount.  Many organisations’ decisions will be based on facts and figures but others will be made based on opinions.  Basing decisions on consumer opinions will help organisations to be more marketing orientated.

A market orientated company is one that organises its activities, products and services around the wants and needs of its customers. By contrast, a product-orientated firm has its primary focus on its product and on the skills, knowledge and systems that support that product.

(The Times 100 Business Case Studies)

There are many different ways to conduct Market Research and collect data.  Looking at the internet, magazines and newspapers as well as promotional materials is a type of research, based on secondary data.  Other forms of data collection include Questionnaires, Interviews and Observations.

Most people are familiar with questionnaires.  They are a structured form of data collection, which asks all respondents the same information, in the same order.  They can be carried out on paper, online and by structured interview; over the phone or face to face.  Free services like Survey Monkey and Google Docs can be used to create online questionnaires and collect data.  (For guidance please contact Merewyn on 07790705223).

Questionnaires are one of the most widely used surveying techniques.  However, it is harder than people think to produce a good questionnaire, for example, the right questions need to be asked and phrased correctly, as there is no way to clarify or collect more information from recipients.

Contamination is another problem with questionnaires which impacts the reliability of the data.  Respondents might guess or discuss their answers with others and some may answer questions to please, or in a way that is more socially desirable.   Also many people are now unwilling to give their time to completing surveys, even if they are passionate about an issue.  This can be due to time issues but also perhaps suspicions about what and how the information provided will be used.

As well as different data collection methods there are also different research purposes.  The classification most often used is threefold – Exploratory, Descriptive and Explanatory (Explore, Describe and Explain).  Questionnaires are not very effective for exploratory research or others that require a large number of open-ended questions.  Questionnaires and other structured data collection are more suited to descriptive or explanatory research.

Interviews can be structured, semi structured or unstructured and can involve one or more people.

Focus groups are un-structured, in depth, interviews that involve groups of 4 – 8 people and can be more effective when conducting exploratory research.  Participants are encouraged to talk freely about events, behaviour and beliefs in relation to a topic area.  This method enables the researcher to interview more people at the same time and also allows a variety of points to emerge and for the group to respond and discuss.

However a big problem faced by this method is the Group Effect – where certain participants dominate discussion – and so Focus Groups need to be carefully managed.  Two people are usually required; a facilitator and a note taker.  The responsibilities of the facilitator are to explain the purpose of the research, to encourage participants to relax and to initiate the discussion whilst creating a balance between encouraging discussion and allowing respondents to range more freely.  As well as what is said, it is recommended to take notes about the nature of the interactions that occur.

It is recommended that the location of focus groups should be neutral with no likelihood of interruption or being overheard.  Layout of seating should be arranged in a circular fashion so everyone is facing inwards and equidistant from the central point of circle.

There are numerous other ways that Market Research can be undertaken, but the most important thing is to clarify exactly what is the objective of the Research?  Without this the information collected will be unclear and unhelpful.  If you are exploring a subject, open questions will need to be asked and the research will benefit from being unstructured.  However if you want to describe or explain a problem then questionnaires or other structured data collection methods would be more suited.

Sayers Solutions host focus group sessions on a variety of topics.  If you would like to participate and give your opinions please click here to subscribe.

Are you a business owner?  What could your organisation benefit from knowing about your customers?    Perhaps you have products, services or ideas that you would like to receive feedback on?  If this is of interest please call Merewyn on 07790705223.


The Times 100 Business Case Studies –

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2003) Research methods for Business Students

3 Comments on “How do you Research your Market?

  1. Hi Merewyn,
    You have set out the purpose and variety of market research methods so clearly here, it is a really valuable guide. Thanks for putting this complex process in a way that makes it possible to see what is suitable for different situations.

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