Marketing 101. Chapter 4: Marketing Research

8 years ago

Market research and marketing research are two functions that help in the development of business and marketing plans.

Market research is a broader look at business environments and can be used to help define your target market. In one example from the previous chapter we looked at a baker who determined that her target market was wedding cakes. Market research for this baker would then involve determining things like how many weddings take place every year within a certain distance from her bakery and how many other bakers are operating in her geographic location. That information will help her determine the potential size and members of her target market.

Marketing research, however, will help her further understand the consumers within the target market. This function within companies is sometimes called "consumer insights." Marketing research is crucial to business success, because in many cases you (the marketer) are not your consumer. It is important to understand what the potential customers of your product or service need and want so that you can best meet those desires. In the case of blogging or certain types of small businesses, however, you will attract readers or customers precisely because you are like your consumers. If you are blogging about the ups and downs of parenting small children, you are likely going to appeal to readers who are also parents of small children. If you design a gorgeous fitted dress that flatters women with curves and uses affordable fabrics and unique nature-inspired embellishments because you can't find what you want to wear in stores, chances are that the potential customers for your line of dresses are women who are very much like you. However, you can still learn a great deal about how to better serve your consumers by doing some research, which can be inexpensive or free.

Types of Research

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research collects measurable data. Surveys are a prime example of a research tool often used for collecting quantitative data. Questions that give a limited set of options for answering generally result in sets of numbers that can be then further analyzed and used to reach specific conclusions or to make findings that can be extrapolated out to larger populations.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research results in data that requires interpretation and non-mathematical analysis. Compared to quantitative research, which seeks to validate hypotheses, qualitative research can be used to explore ideas through techniques such as asking open-ended questions and observing behavior. Focus Groups are a common method of qualitative marketing research. Ethnography (derived from cultural anthropology) is a growing qualitative method used in marketing research.

Focus Group image by WhyOhGee from Flickr used under Creative Commons license.

Research Sources

Primary research is simply research you do or sponsor yourself. Secondary research already exists and uses data collected by other researchers not specifically for your business.


Either conduct some primary research for your blog or business, or find a source of secondary research and gather some data.

If you are seeking advertisers, sponsors, promotions or giveaways for your blog, it will be helpful for you to know a bit about who your readers are. This information can also help you create better blog posts based on what your readers are most interested in.

For your blog, you can use a built-in stats program or install one like Google Analytics to gather data, such as which blog topics garner the most viewers, where your readers arrive from and how long visitors stay at your blog. You can also conduct a reader survey using tools like Survey Monkey or Zoomerang to ask a few simple questions, such as which subjects your readers most enjoy on your blog, how they found you, what time of day they usually read you or basic demographic information like age, gender, age ranges of any children, and so on.

To find secondary research, you can check the Census Bureau for U.S. information or try Small Business: Canada for resources. Or hit your local library or SBA office to find data about your industry or topic.

Previous Chapters

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Setting Goals and Creating a P&L Statement
Chapter 3: The Marketing Mix and the Four Ps

Additional Resources

SBA: Marketing Research

What is Marketing Research?
According to the American Marketing Association, marketing research is the systematic gathering, recording, and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services.

Every small business owner-manager must ask the following questions to devise effective marketing strategies:

  • Who are my customers and potential customers?
  • What kind of people are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • Can and will they buy?
  • Am I offering the kinds of goods or services they want at the best place, at the best time and in the right amounts?
  • Are my prices consistent with what buyers view as the product's value?
  • Are my promotional programs working?
  • What do customers think of my business?
  • How does my business compare with my competitors?

Marketing research is not a perfect science. It deals with people and their constantly changing feelings and behaviors, which are influenced by countless subjective factors. To conduct marketing research, you must gather facts and opinions in an orderly, objective way to find out what people want to buy, not just what you want to sell them.

Linda Tischler at Fast Company: Every Move You Make

"We're not talking about the fineries of marketing here," says Shapira. "These women cannot get help because they cannot speak." The tape also helped the creative team get over its squeamishness about the subject. Shapira tells of one copywriter who confessed he was mortified to land on the account. "I was so bummed out," he said. "But now I have never felt more passionate about anything in my life. These women just reach out and grab you by the throat and make you want to make the world okay for them."

BlogHer CE Elana Centor on how Campbell's Soup used marketing research to redesign packaging labels

Marketing Teacher: Introduction to Marketing Research

Jack Gordon, Bill Vernick and Bob Sukys at The Wise Marketer: How consumer insight makes of breaks a new brand

Joshua Brewer at 52 Weeks of UX: You Are Not Your User

Jeremy Schoemaker at Shoe Money: You Are Not Your Customer

Maria Niles blogs about marketing to consumers at Fizz from ConsumerPop.

BlogHer Contributing Editor PopConsumer Beyond Help

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