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Market Research I An organized effort to gather information about target markets, customers or competition

Market Research

No great marketing decisions have ever been made on qualitative data." --John Sculley

Market research is an organized effort to gather information about target markets, customers or competition. It is a very important component of business strategy. The term is commonly interchanged with marketing research; however marketing research is concerned specifically about marketing processes, while market research is concerned specifically with markets.

Market research does more than confirm your "gut feeling," it provides critical information and direction. It identifies and analyzes market needs/wants, market size, product features, pricing, decision makers, distribution channels and competition.

Take the example of a company that was to develop a new RF frequency synthesizer for a specific customer and specification.  The company identified the basic product, other potential customers and standard margin pricing.  This product would be successful on technical merit alone.  However, our market research identified easily implemented product features that customers wanted and were willing to pay for.  The addition of these product features significantly increased the serviceable available market (SAM) and resulted in a  highly successful, industry recognized, trademarked product that generates revenue and margins much higher than initially projected.

There are two different methodologies (qualitative & quantitative) for consumer and B2B market research.  Here, we will address both, but concentrate on B2B quantitative. The Market research process is outlined in the following seven steps.

 Define Objective or Need  
The initial phase is always to define the objective or need to conduct market research. This includes the initial gathering of available relevant information. This can be from internal data, industry websites, strategic customers and input from personnel (e.g. engineering).  This information should be organized as to focus on objective/need definition and be presented to management for analysis and project approval decision. Some examples of market research objectives are presented below.

* Identify total available market (TAM).
* What is the market trend.
* Identify market segmentation.
* Identify potential customers, the decision makers and their wants & needs.
* Define required and "want" product performance & features.
* Identify competitive strengths and weakness.
* Define serviceable available market (SAM).
* Define estimated pricing and product lifecycle.
* Identify sales/marketing resource requirements.

 Identify who will conduct the research  
Once the research objectives and needs are defined it is important to determine the appropriate person or organization to conduct the research and the general approaches/methods to meet the research objectives. Unless your organization has experienced and dedicated market research personnel.  It is highly recommended that a market research organization with experience in your particular industry be employed. They will review research objectives, applicable methodologies and project requirements with you. Final determination of project scope, methodology and schedule should be finalized in writing before work proceeds. 

 Choose Methodology 
There are two schools of thought on market research: Qualitative and Quantitative, with both arguing the superiority of each approach. Qualitative research is more abstract, emotional and is usually employed for consumer and social/government market research projects. Quantitative research deals with the absolute and is most useful for B2B market research.

* Qualitative Research
Qualitative research, often referred to as subjective research, is used when objectives are ambiguous or unclear, and helps determine what data is important and what data is not as as time progresses.  It often employs emotionally provocative surveys, focus groups and cause-effect studies. While having some value in B2B market research, qualitative research is used primarily to gain consumer and social insight.  Qualitative research is a complex process, sometimes revealing non-conclusive results, and therefore is the most expensive research.

 * Quantitative Research
Quantitative research, often referred to as objective research, is the gathering data that is absolute, assigning definitive and numerical value to market parameters, such as market size, market share, customers and competitors.  It deals with the descriptive who, what, when and where, and therefore is the most widely used research for B2B.

There are two types of information that is gathered during Quantitative market research: Primary and Secondary data. Primary data is unique and gathered for a specific objective, secondary data is data already available from other sources. Both types of data have various activities and mythologies in the collection process. Secondary data is generally faster and less expensive to obtain than primary data and can often be gathered from customer/competitive websites and internet/library data bases.  Gathering pricing and product feature information is usually primary data obtained through surveys, phone or one-on-one interviews.  Below are examples of quantitative research methods.

- Internet & data base research
- Phone interviews
- One-on-one interviews
- Industry trade show research
- Customer & industry surveys
- Direct competitive price & delivery data collection

As mentioned previously, your market research professional will review research objectives, applicable methodologies and project requirements with you. Final determination of project scope, methods used and schedule should be mutually agreed to, and finalized in writing before work proceeds.

 Data Collection  
Data collection will vary from internet research, customer and industry interviews and surveys. Interaction with customers, media, industry experts and the general public should be done by professionals, always aware of the objectives and your company's good reputation. In industry specific market research, knowing who not to talk with is as important as knowing who to talk to, lest you mistakenly provide your competition with valuable data. As previously mentioned, your chosen research organization must be familiar with, and have contacts in, your particular industry.
 Data Preparation and Analysis
Data preparation and analysis is needed to give the raw data organization and meaning. The first step is cleaning and verifying the data. The data is then organized by each objective category. In many cases certain data will be listed in multiple categories. And finally, the data is analyzed for it's content, relevance and completeness. It may be that additional data must be gathered in order to complete your findings on an objective parameter.
 Data Presentation and Report 

The market research data, findings and conclusions now need to be presented in an understandable, easily referable format to decision makers. Meyers Associates generally provides a report as outlined below. We review the information and conclusions with decision makers to assure full understanding.                      

* Introduction
* Key Market Drivers
* Technical Challenges
* Market Definition and Segmentation
* Customers
* Competition
* Pricing and Revenue Forecast
* Life Cycle
* Conclusion

 Follow Up  
Follow-up is mandatory to maximize the effectiveness of market research.  The initial follow-up should be done prior the the product's preliminary design review, when design trade-offs (needs versus wants) are being considered.  The second follow-up should be with the marketing/product launch team 1-2 months prior to product launch. And finally, 3-6 months after product launch, a complete review of the project should be conducted. 

Meyers Associates is industry recognized, respected and utilizes trusted resources in our market research. We look forward to discussing your market research requirements with you.