The key issues underlying the difficulties existing between managers and marketing researchers seem to be the responsibility and involvement of both parties. To be effective, the researcher must understand and be sympathetic to, the needs and views of the manager — the user of research. On the other hand, if managers are to make the most effective use of marketing research they should understand the process of research, as well as their involvement and responsibility to it.
The following discussion of the manager’s responsibility and involvement in marketing research is addressed to the manager for two reasons. First, many readers of our website aspire to management rather than research careers. Second, as most of this article is addressed to the researcher, it is appropriate somewhere to point out the role managers should play in obtaining and using research. If the reader is interested in a research career, the following discussion serves as a guide to the things a marketing researcher should thoroughly discuss with management to ensure the latter’s understanding of and involvement in, the marketing research process.
There are five occasions when managers should contribute inputs to the marketing research process or participate in decisions relating to marketing research.
Initiating Research Projects:
Occasionally marketing researchers may privy to information that will lead them to propose specific research projects to management for approval. However, as individual researchers are not likely to have all of the information available to managers, they cannot be expected to know all the problems managers face. One of the manager’s responsibilities is to initiate marketing research when it is needed and to do so at the earliest possible opportunity.
Specifying Information needed for Decision Making:
In their written problem statements, managers should include detailed descriptions of the information they need to make a decision on each of the alternatives being considered. These detailed descriptions of needed information can form a basis or further discussions between managers and researchers, where the latter can ask questions that will lead to a more complete picture of the information required by managers. The final version of the research project will be much more useful to managers if in the early stages of the project’s design the managers and researchers get together and develop a clear understanding of the information the managers expect from the research and how it can lead to a decision. In this way managers can provide the inputs researchers need in order to design a useful research project.
Evaluating Proposed Research Projects:
Typically research studies are authorized only after a study proposal has been approved by management. In order to avoid misunderstanding or poor communications a manager should require a written proposal and carefully evaluate it prior to approving it. The manager’s written problem statement and specified needed information should be the basis for such an evaluation. After such an evaluation, the managers should ask key questions and suggest changes, if needed prior to approving the proposal, not after the study is underway or after the findings have been reported.
Evaluating Commercial Research Services:
Today a firm can purchase a wide variety of information from commercial research services that is, from independent companies whose main business activity consists of compiling marketing information. Although marketing research personnel will take the major responsibility in evaluating which service to purchase, the marketing manager should be involved. In order to make an evaluation, the manager should first specify the purpose for obtaining the information and the information needed and then compare these things with information that can be obtained from commercial service.
Accepting or Rejecting Research Findings:
Decision making is the manager’s responsibility, not the researcher’s. It is the manager’s responsibility to avoid a decision based on valid research findings. Just as an evaluation should be made on a proposed research project it is authorized an inquiry should be made into the validity of the findings from completed research. Along with the researcher, the manager should review the research project to assure that it has been carefully carried out. Once assured, the manager will have confidence in the validity of the research findings and can then incorporate them into the decision making process.