An introduction to market research

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An introduction to market research

Good afternoon everyone, my name’s Rowena and I’m the Deputy Head of Content and Marketing Manager here at RocketMill. Today I’m going to be talking to you about market research, specifically what it is, the benefits of market research, some example methods and some ways that we’ve used it here at RocketMill recently.

What is market research?

To begin with, what is market research? Well, in a nutshell, market research is the gathering, analysis, interpreting of data about the market. Now, this could be about a specific product or service that you provide, it could be about your customers, past, present and potential. It might be about the characteristics and spending habits of the industry as a whole, or it could be for your audiences thoughts on you versus the competition.

Whatever you decide to focus on, your main aim is to find out what your consumers want in order for you to be able to provide it.

The importance of market research

Why should you care about market research? Well, in the wise words of W. Edwards Deming, without data you’re just another person with an opinion. The worst thing you can do is propose a new idea, campaign or strategy purely based on your own opinion. Do you know who are amongst some of the worst for having strong opinions? This lot, us.

As marketers, we have an incredibly biassed and savvy view of the buying and selling experience, which is just not representative of how our audiences think. How many of you in here have ever been asked to write ad copy for a car brand when you don’t even have a licence, or to create a guide to potty training when you’re not a parent, or maybe redesign a gym’s website when the thought of a treadmill just makes you sweat?

Now, I’m not saying that we can’t do these things but what I’m saying is, to do it effectively, we need the data and the opinions of the relevant audiences. By doing market research we can understand what our customers’ needs are, whether that’s via a new product or via updates to your website. We can identify any problems, potential or existing, and we can find out where we stand against the competition. Is your website more user friendly? Are you more expensive?

Finding this out is only going to benefit you and your customers. By identifying these needs, you can start to address them. When you address them, you have improved satisfaction and retention and that’s only going to lead to sales, which is good for you, so that’s why you should care.

Market research methods

Some methods of market research, now this is a ForeFront in itself so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. But there are two main types of the market research, primary and secondary.

Secondary market research

Now, you might be wondering why secondary comes first, that’s because it’s actually normally a good starting point. Secondary research refers to any preexisting data that you have available. That could be previous studies or reports, or it could be from analytical tools such as GA.

There are many pros to using secondary data, namely that it’s often free, it’s almost immediate, and it’s really good for scoping out what already exists, so you can determine what additional research you need to do.

Of course, there are some cons as well. The accuracy could be called into question because you might not know the methods behind the research. It could also be out of date, or the sample size might not be representative. If you find a focus group study from 20 years ago that only spoke to five people, that’s not likely to be relevant to you today.

Primary research

Primary research on the other hand refers to any research that you do yourself, and there are two main types, qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is used to gather non numerical data, so the focus is on thoughts and opinions. The sample sizes tend to be a lot smaller, but that means that the results are a lot more in depth. This can make them tougher to analyse or to apply at scale, but it is a really good starting point because it means you can generate the opinions of your customers and then you can measure them at scale with your later research.

Some example methods of qualitative research include interviews, this could be one-on-one or in groups. It could be in person or over the phone. Focus groups, where you get respondents within your target market together to gain answers to the why, what and how questions. Or ethnography, which is the study of people in their real life environment using your products and services.

There are mixed opinions about qualitative research. John Sculley says that no great marketing decisions have ever been made using qualitative data, whilst A.G. Lafley rightly points out that if you want to understand how a lion hunts, you would go to the jungle and not to the zoo.

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is used to generate numerical data. It aims to identify statistical relevance, so sample sizes have to be a lot larger because this means that the findings can be applied at scale. It’s not always the best starting point because you might not know what you need to measure, but once you’ve identified the opinions from your qualitative research, you can use it to justify it.

Some examples include surveys, questionnaires or polls, observations, so counting the number of times that someone does something. Also, a lot of secondary methods like Google Analytics, fall into the quantitative buckets as well.

Again, there are mixed opinions on it. Katja Bressette says that to understand how consumers really think, it’s vital that we go beyond words. Whereas this person has rightly pointed out that statistics can be very misleading.

Tips and tricks

Just a couple of examples of how we’ve used market research here at RocketMill recently for our clients at Kimberly Clark. Depend, for any of you that don’t know, is a brand of incontinence products, and they aim to create products that help people to live their life with confidence and not worry about their condition.

Earlier this year we ran a survey with Depend, which we sent to existing customers to find out how they felt about the products, and we asked them things like how many times they had to use the product in order to feel confident with it. The survey itself revealed some really interesting insights for us to help enforce the questions that we later used in a product selector that we created for the brand.

Representative sample size

Make sure you use a representative sample size, you can’t speak to five people and then apply a statistic to that across the board. Don’t use leading questions. Don’t say things like, do you agree that. You keep it neutral. Keep the whole survey short. The longer it gets, the more likely people are to drop off. Cater to all options. If people want to select multiple choice or hit don’t know, make sure that that’s there.


Incentivize them. Now, this doesn’t have to be with an iPad giveaway or 100 pounds prize draw, it could be that you just tell them what kind of social incentives they’d have by doing it. In the case of Depend, we added a line in that just said, “By answering these questions, you can help others to manage their condition and continue life with confidence.” And that generated a response rate of almost 9%, which is actually quite good for surveys.

Finally, use the findings of social proof. So if 90% of people say they only have to use the product once to feel confident with it, add that to your product pages.

An example of some qualitative research that we’ve done for Kimberly Clark recently is in the form of interviews. Now, we did phone interviews for Pull-Ups and spoke to various mums at different stages of the potty training experiences. Some of them were going through it for the first time, others for the second, and one of the people that we spoke to was actually a childminder who regularly looked after children of a potty training age.

We asked them how they felt about the experience in general, and wanted to gain the sentiment around it and also how they felt about the brand. The results helped to inform what we wanted to pull out as USPs to articulate the brand benefits, and also how we were going to differentiate Pull-Ups against the competition.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Some tips to conducting a good interview. Prepare a list of questions. I like to write them all onto a Word document and print them out and take them with me into the phone call. But don’t feel constrained by these questions. If you’re having a conversation, and you naturally go from question 2 to 10, don’t worry about it. Cross it off on a bit of paper and come back to the other ones later.

Find the right people

Use people that you know. For the interviews in here, I didn’t speak to any marketers because I’ve told you we’re not accurate, but I spoke to everybody in here and asked them, who knew someone who was a mum who was about to potty train? And you’ll be surprised by how many people did.

Talk candidly with the group

Encourage opinion. You want your respondents to talk candidly. You might not like what they have to say, but it’s only going to benefit you in the long run.

Finally, record it. Ask permission first, but if you do, then you can focus purely on the conversation, and you don’t have to worry about taking down notes.


In summary, ignoring market research is ultimately going to cost you more time and money in the long run. If you create a campaign that flops, then the whole thing’s wasted. If you invest a bit more time and money up front, then you’ll be able to create a campaign that has a much longer lifespan.

The ways you can do that are by choosing the right methods. So based on your time and budgets, and what you want to know, picking the correct methods, begin with qualitative research to go on an opinion, and then go onto quantitative to justify it at scale.

Finally, tap into the people that you know. You’ll be surprised by how many relevant contacts that you have.

Thank you.