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What are the stages of the marketing research planning process?

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This is just off the top of my head. Any market research text book can give you more details, and may include some intermediate steps I left out.

1) Identify problem - What are the key questions, and what decisions will be made based on the results. Without a good handle on this the research will likely be useless. It's also useful to have an idea of your budget as early as possible.

2) Define your audience - Who do you need to reach to answer your questions? Current customers, potential customers? The more specific the better, but if you get too narrow the target will be difficult (i.e. expensive) to reach. "Moms" is too broad, while "Moms age 25 to 30 with children 1 to 3 who have purchased 5+ jars of Gerber baby food in the past week" is too narrow. A better definition would be "Moms who purchased baby food in the past month".

3) Determine research method - Surveys are typical, but could also include focus groups or 1-on-1 in-depth interviews. If using a survey, will it be by phone, mail, in-person, web, etc.?

4) Determine sampling - How many do you need to survey for a reliable sample size (there are formulas for this) and what is the best source to find them - phone screening, buy a list, etc.?

5) Write the questionnaire - Make sure the questions adequately address the defined problem. Question wording should be easy to understand and specific. The response options need to allow for appropriate analysis.

6) Implement the survey (field work) - Track productivity and costs. Resolve any obstacles that come up.

7) Tabulate and analyze the data - Prepare summary statistics for each question, broken out by relevant subgroups if necessary. May include coding of open end questions and advanced statistical techniques.

8) Report the results - Create graphs, charts and text that communicates the findings. Conclusions/recommendations should be actionable regarding the defined problem.
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