“early”decisions are always made by looking ahead to “later”decisions. Theearly decisions are constantly being modiﬁed to account for new insights andpossibilities presented by later decisions. Also, the steps do not function in isola-tion. Rather, they are embedded in the ongoing planning process of the business,which culminates in the development of strategies, programs, and action. Thisplanning process provides the purposes of the research. In turn, planning is sup-ported by the information system, which (1) anticipates the type of informationrequired by decision makers and (2) organizes data that have been collected toensure their availability when needed.The development of a research purpose that links the research to decisionmaking, and the formulation of research objectives that serve to guide theresearch, are unquestionably the most important steps in the research process. If they are correct, the research stands a good chance of being both useful andappropriate. If they are bypassed or wrong, the research almost surely will bewasteful and irrelevant. These aspects of research, too often neglected by man-agers, will be discussed in detail in this chapter. The next chapter deals withresearch design; the chapters in Part II discuss the various methods to collectdata; and the chapters in Part III of the book deal with analysis and interpreta-tion of the data.
THE PRELIMINARY STAGES OF THEMARKETING RESEARCH PROCESS
Step 1—Research Purpose
Research problems are more likely to be poorly deﬁned, only partially under-stood, and missing possible decision alternatives that should be analyzed. Deﬁn-ing problems accurately is a combination of data and judgment that demandsreal thought and effort. Problems, opportunities, and “nonproblem”situationsare closely related to structure. Together they make up a family of gaps. The con-cept of analyzing the gaps as problems is based on:1.
Recognizing/understanding a problem
. Aproblem is a gap between what wassupposed to happen and what did happen between our objective and ouraccomplishment. Three elements are required to recognize a problem:
Something must be expected to happen.
Feedback must be received on what actually happens.
Expectations and feedback must be compared.
Knowing where and when the gap or problem occurred
. Once a problem isdeﬁned, it is easier to approach the cause and solution to the gap(s), inaccordance with the level of detail of the analysis. In the end, problemdeﬁnition is and will always be a creative act, a balance between thoroughresearch and intuition. Problem deﬁnition is best thought of as a solutiondeﬁnition—the selection of a domain is likely to be rich in ideas to solvethe problem. Problem deﬁnition is a creative act. The payoff from goodmarketing definition is enormous—nothing else we do has so muchleverage on proﬁt.
Seldom will research problems come neatly packaged with obvious infor-mation requirements, clear-cut boundaries, and pure motives on the part of thedecision makers. Launching a research study with such shaky inputs is a recipe
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