Perhaps you’ve heard the terms “market research” and “marketing research” being used interchangeably. Actually, there is a considerable difference between the two. Market research refers to research into a specific market, whereas marketing research is a broader term.

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), marketing research is defined as follows:

“Marketing research is the function that links the consumer, customer, and public to the marketer through information – information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process. Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues, designs the methods for collecting information, manages and implements the data collection process, analyzes, and communicates the findings and their implications.”

Marketing research is usually the foundation for an effective marketing strategy. A systematic approach generally involves defining the “problem”, figuring out the best way to answer the research question, conducting the appropriate form of research, analyzing the results, and making actionable recommendations based on the findings.

Marketing research is of two broad types: primary research, and secondary research. Primary research refers to unique, specific research studies that attempt to answer a problem to which the answer does not already exist. Secondary research is the process of curating answers to a problem from existing research studies.

Primary research can be further classified into qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Qualitative research methods such as focus groups are conducted with a small number of respondents to provide directional guidance to a brand, and cannot be used in calculations of statistical significance. Such methods provide insight into consumer psychology that is difficult to derive from quantitative tests. Quantitative testing is carried out with a large enough sample size to allow decision-making based on statistical confidence in the results. There are several types of tests that can be devised based on the objectives, such as concept/product tests, pricing tests, packaging tests, taste tests, usage and attitudinal studies etc. Typically, quantitative testing aims to provide definitive answers to questions that are based on the “4 P’s” of marketing – product, price, place, and promotion.

Traditional primary research studies are now increasingly conducted online, as it is cheaper and more efficient than phone surveys, mall intercepts, and mail surveys. It is also possible to conduct tests on aspects of your website online, as the online medium lends itself very well to graphic and visual representations of data and allows data collection quickly. Several companies such as Zoomerang offer questionnaire templates that can be customized by the researcher. However, it is generally advisable to work with a seasoned researcher who can define the problem, present the best research strategy, implement the research, and make appropriate recommendations for action with a certain degree of confidence.

Using marketing research to guide your marketing strategies is a powerful notion for any business. We at The Search Marketer believe in the collective alliance of consumer insight through research, content that leverages the findings from research and generates new customers, and deepening those customer relationships through social media marketing. It makes for a supercharged marketing triumvirate.