Developing Marketing Information
Marketers can obtain the needed information from internal data, marketing intelligence, and marketing research. Internal Data Many companies build extensive internal databases, electronic collections of consumer and market information obtained from data sources within the company’s network. Information in an internal database can come from many sources. The marketing depart- ment furnishes information on customer characteristics, sales transactions, and website visits. The customer service department keeps records of customer satisfaction or service problems. The accounting department provides detailed records of sales, costs, and cash flows. Operations reports on production, shipments, and inventories. The sales force reports on reseller reactions and competitor activities, and marketing channel partners provide data on point-of-sale transactions.
Competitive Marketing Intelligence Competitive marketing intelligence involves the systematic collection and analysis of publicly available information about consumers, competitors, and developments in the marketplace. The goal of competitive marketing intelligence is to improve strategic deci- sion making by understanding the consumer environment, assessing and tracking com- petitors’ actions, and providing early warnings of opportunities and threats. Marketing intelligence techniques range from observing consumers firsthand to quizzing the com- pany’s own employees, benchmarking competitors’ products, researching on the Internet, and monitoring social media buzz.
Many companies have even appointed chief listening officers, who are charged with sifting through online customer conversations and passing along key insights to market- ing decision makers. As a Dell marketing executive puts it, “Our chief listener is critical to making sure that the right people in the organization are aware of what the conversa- tions on the Web are saying about us, so the relevant people in the business can connect with customers.”9 Companies also need to actively monitor competitors’ activities. Firms use com- petitive marketing intelligence to gain early warnings of competitor moves and strategies, new product launches, new or changing markets, and potential competitive strengths and weaknesses. Much competitor intelligence can be collected from people inside the company—executives, engineers and scientists, purchasing agents, and the sales force. The company can also obtain important intelligence information from suppliers, resell- ers, and key customers. It can monitor competitors’ sites and use the Internet to search specific competitor names, events, or trends and see what turns up. And tracking consumer conversations about competing brands is often as revealing as tracking conversations about the company’s own brands.
In addition to marketing intelligence information about general consumer, competitor, and marketplace happenings, marketers often need formal studies that provide customer and market insights for specific marketing situations and decisions. For example, Bud- weiser wants to know what appeals will be most effective in its Super Bowl advertising. Yahoo! wants to know how Web searchers will react to a proposed redesign of its site. Or Samsung wants to know how many and what kinds of people will buy its next-generation, ultrathin televisions. In such situations, managers will need marketing research.
International marketing research International marketing research has grown tremendously over the past decade. International re- searchers follow the same steps as domestic researchers, from defining the research problem and developing a research plan to interpreting and reporting the results. However, these researchers often face more and different problems. Whereas domestic researchers deal with fairly homogene- ous markets within a single country, international researchers deal with diverse markets in many different countries. These markets often vary greatly in their levels of economic development, cultures and customs, and buying patterns. In many foreign markets, the international researcher may have a difficult time finding good secondary data. Whereas marketing researchers can obtain reliable secondary data from dozens of domestic research services, many countries have almost no research services at all. Some of the largest international research services operate in many countries. For example, The Nielsen Company (the world’s largest marketing research company) has offices in more than 100 coun- tries, from Wavre, Belgium to Oxford, UK, to Nicosia, Cyprus.38 However, most research firms operate in only a relative handful of countries.39 Thus, even when secondary information is avail- able, it usually must be obtained from many different sources on a country-by-country basis, making the information difficult to combine or compare. Because of the scarcity of good secondary data, international researchers often must collect their own primary data. However, obtaining primary data may be no easy task. For example, it can be difficult simply to develop good samples. Researchers can use current telephone directo- ries, e-mail lists, census tract data, and any of several sources of socioeconomic data to construct samples. However, such information is largely lacking in many countries.
Once the sample is drawn, the researcher usually can reach most respondents easily by tele- phone, by mail, on the Internet or in person. Reaching respondents is often not so easy in other parts of the world. Researchers in some parts of the world cannot rely on telephone, Internet and mail data collection; most data collection is door to door and concentrated in three or four of the largest cities. In some countries, few people have phones or personal computers. In the UK, the World Bank lists over 83 per cent of the population as having access to the Internet. In Armenia the level is about 7 per cent.40 In some countries, the postal system is notoriously unreliable. In Brazil, for instance, an estimated 30 per cent of the mail is never delivered. In many develop- ing countries, poor roads and transportation systems make certain areas hard to reach, making personal interviews difficult and expensive.41 Cultural differences from country to country cause additional problems for international re- searchers. Language is the most obvious obstacle. For example, questionnaires must be prepared in one language and then translated into the languages of each country researched. Responses then must be translated back into the original language for analysis and interpretation.
Public Policy and Ethics in Marketing Research Most marketing research benefits both the sponsoring company and its consumers. Through marketing research, companies gain insights into consumers’ needs, resulting in more satisfy- ing products and services and stronger customer relationships. However, the misuse of mar- keting research can also harm or annoy consumers. Two major public policy and ethics issues in marketing research are intrusions on consumer privacy and the misuse of research findings.
Misuse of Research Findings Research studies can be powerful persuasion tools; com- panies often use study results as claims in their advertising and promotion. Today, however, many research studies appear to be little more than vehicles for pitching the sponsor’s prod- ucts. In fact, in some cases, research surveys appear to have been designed just to produce the intended effect.