How to Create a Market Research Plan

Table of contents.

market research live plan

You may think you have the best idea ever for a business or product, but without laying the proper groundwork, it could easily go the way of the Edsel. Not only do you need to size up the competition, but you also need to identify who will buy your product, how much it will cost, the best approach to selling it and how many people will demand it.

To get answers to these questions, you’ll need a market research plan, which you can create yourself or pay a specialist to create for you. Market research plans define an existing problem and/or outline an opportunity. From there, the marketing strategy is broken down task by task. Your plan should include objectives and the methods that you’ll use to achieve those objectives, along with a time frame for completing the work.

A market research plan should provide a thorough examination of how your product or service will fare in a defined area. It should include:

  • An examination of the current marketplace and an analysis of the need for your product or service
  • An assessment of the competition
  • Data about customers
  • The direction for your marketing in the upcoming year
  • Goals to be met

How to create your market research plan

Doing business without having a marketing plan is like driving without directions. You may eventually reach your destination, but there will be many costly and time-consuming mistakes made along the way.

Many entrepreneurs mistakenly believe there is a big demand for their service or product, but, in reality, there may not be, or your prices may be too high or too low, or you may be going into a business with so many restrictions that it’s almost impossible to be successful. A market research plan will help you uncover significant issues or roadblocks.

Step 1. Conduct a comprehensive situation analysis.

One of the first steps in creating your marketing plan is to create a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), which is used to identify your competition , to know how they operate, and then to understand their strengths and weaknesses .

When developing a market research plan, it is essential that you do your homework to determine your possible customer base, to gain knowledge about the competition and to have a solid foundation for your marketing strategy.

Step 2: Develop clear marketing objectives.

In this section, describe the desired outcome for your marketing plan with realistic and attainable objectives, the targets, and a clear and concise time frame. The most common way to approach this is with marketing objectives, which may include the total number of customers and the retention rate, the average volume of purchases, total market share, and the proportion of your potential market that makes purchases.

Step 3: Make a financial plan.

A financial plan is essential for creating a solid marketing plan. The financial plan answers a range of questions that are critical components of your business, such as how much you intend to sell, what will you charge, how much will it cost to deliver your services or produce your products, how much will it cost for your basic operating expenses and how much financing will you need to operate your business.

In your business plan, be sure to clearly describe who you are, what your business will be about, business goals, and what your inspiration was to buy, begin or grow your business.

Step 4: Determine your target audience.

Once you know what makes you stand out from your competitors and how you’ll market yourself, you should decide who to target with all this information. That’s why your market research plan should clearly delineate your target audience. What are their demographics and how will these qualities affect your plan? How do your company’s current products and services affect which consumers you can realistically make customers? Will that change in the future? All of these questions should be answered in your plan.

Step 5: List your research methods.

Rarely does one research avenue make for a comprehensive market research plan. Instead, your plan should indicate several methods that will be used to determine the market share you can realistically obtain.  This way, you get as much information as possible from as many sources as possible. The result is a more robust path toward establishing the exact footprint you desire for your company.

A good market research plan involves using more than one type of research to obtain the information you need.

Step 6: Establish a timeline.

With your plan in place, you’ll need to figure out how long your market research process will take. Project management charts are often helpful in this regard, as they clearly divide tasks and personnel over a timeframe that you have set. No matter which type of project management chart you use, try to build some flexibility into your timeframe. A two-week buffer toward the home stretch comes in handy when a process scheduled for one week takes two – that buffer will keep you on deadline.

Step 7: Acknowledge ethical concerns.

Market research always presents opportunities for ethical missteps. After all, you’ll need to obtain competitor information and sensitive financial data that may not always be readily available. Your market research plan should thus encourage your team to not take any dicey steps to obtain this information. It may be better to state “we could not obtain this competitor information” than to spy on the competitor or pressure their current employees for knowledge. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with simply feeling better about the final state of your plan and how you got it there.

Outsourcing the work

If the thought of trying to create your own market research plan seems daunting or too time-consuming, there are plenty of other people willing to do the work for you.

You don’t need to pay thousands of dollars for assistance crafting a market research plan. University business schools often provide free resources that can assist you.

Market research firms can charge into the thousands of dollars for a market research plan, but there are ways to get help more affordably, including:

  • Outline your plans carefully and spell out objectives.
  • Examine as many sources as possible.
  • Before paying for any information, check with librarians, small business development centers or market research professors to see if they can help you access market research data for free.
  • You may think you’ll need to spend a hefty sum to create a market research plan, but there are plenty of free and low-cost sources available, especially through university business schools that will guide you through the process.


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How to Do Market Research: A Guide and Template

Discover the different types of market research, how to conduct your own market research, and use a free template to help you along the way.



5 Research and Planning Templates + a Free Guide on How to Use Them in Your Market Research


Updated: 03/29/23

Published: 03/29/23

Today's consumers have a lot of power. They can research your product or service and make purchase decisions entirely on their own.

Moreover, rather than talking to one of your sales reps, they're more likely to ask for referrals from members of their networks or read online reviews.

With this in mind, have you adapted your marketing strategy to complement the way today's consumers research, shop, and buy?

To do just that, you must have a deep understanding of who your buyers are, your specific market, and what influences the purchase decisions and behavior of your target audience members.

Enter: Market Research.

→ Download Now: Market Research Templates [Free Kit]

Whether you're new to market research, this guide will provide you with a blueprint for conducting a thorough study of your market, target audience, competition, and more.

What is market research?

Market research is the process of gathering information about your target market and customers to verify the success of a new product, help your team iterate on an existing product, or understand brand perception to ensure your team is effectively communicating your company's value effectively.

Market research can answer various questions about the state of an industry, but it's hardly a crystal ball that marketers can rely on for insights on their customers. Market researchers investigate several areas of the market, and it can take weeks or even months to paint an accurate picture of the business landscape.

However, researching just one of those areas can make you more intuitive to who your buyers are and how to deliver value that no other business is offering them right now.

Certainly you can make sound judgment calls based on your experience in the industry and your existing customers. However, keep in mind that market research offers benefits beyond those strategies. There are two things to consider:

  • Your competitors also have experienced individuals in the industry and a customer base. It's very possible that your immediate resources are, in many ways, equal to those of your competition's immediate resources. Seeking a larger sample size for answers can provide a better edge.
  • Your customers don't represent the attitudes of an entire market. They represent the attitudes of the part of the market that is already drawn to your brand.

The market research services market is growing rapidly, which signifies a strong interest in market research as we enter 2023. The market is expected to grow from roughly $75 billion in 2021 to $90.79 billion in 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 5%.

market research live plan

Free Market Research Kit

  • SWOT Analysis Template
  • Survey Template
  • Focus Group Template

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Why do market research?

Market research allows you to meet your buyer where they are. As our world (both digital and analog) becomes louder and demands more and more of our attention, this proves invaluable. By understanding your buyer's problems, pain points, and desired solutions, you can aptly craft your product or service to naturally appeal to them. Once you're ready to expand your business, you can also use market research to help you create a market development strategy .

Market research also provides insight into a wide variety of things that impact your bottom line, including:

  • Where your target audience and current customers conduct their product or service research
  • Which of your competitors your target audience looks to for information, options, or purchases
  • What's trending in your industry and in the eyes of your buyer
  • Who makes up your market and what their challenges are
  • What influences purchases and conversions among your target audience
  • Consumer attitudes about a particular topic, pain, product, or brand
  • Whether there's demand for the business initiatives you're investing in
  • Unaddressed or underserved customer needs that can be flipped into selling opportunity
  • Attitudes about pricing for a particular product or service

Ultimately, market research allows you to get information from a larger sample size of your target audience, eliminating bias and assumptions so that you can get to the heart of consumer attitudes. As a result, you can make better business decisions from knowing the bigger picture.

As you begin honing in on your market research, you'll likely hear about primary and secondary market research. The easiest way to think about primary and secondary research is to envision two umbrellas sitting beneath market research: one for primary market research and one for secondary market research.

Beneath these two umbrellas sits a number of different types of market research, which we'll highlight below . Defining which of the two umbrellas your market research fits beneath isn't necessarily crucial, although some marketers prefer to make the distinction.

So, in case you encounter a marketer who wants to define your types of market research as primary or secondary — or if you're one of them — let's cover the definitions of the two categories next. Then, we'll look at the different types of market research in the following section .

Primary vs. Secondary Research

To give you an idea of how extensive market research can get, consider that it can either be qualitative or quantitative in nature — depending on the studies you conduct and what you're trying to learn about your industry.

Qualitative research is concerned with public opinion, and explores how the market feels about the products currently available in that market. Quantitative research is concerned with data, and looks for relevant trends in the information that's gathered from public records.

There are two main types of market research that your business can conduct to collect actionable information on your products, including primary research and secondary research. Let's dive into those two types, now.

Primary Research

Primary research is the pursuit of first-hand information about your market and the customers within your market. It's useful when segmenting your market and establishing your buyer personas. Primary market research tends to fall into one of two buckets: exploratory and specific research.

Exploratory Primary Research

This kind of primary market research is less concerned with measurable customer trends and more about potential problems that would be worth tackling as a team. It normally takes place as a first step — before any specific research has been performed — and may involve open-ended interviews or surveys with small numbers of people.

Specific Primary Research

Specific primary market research often follows exploratory research and is used to dive into issues or opportunities the business has already identified as important. In specific research, the business can take a smaller or more precise segment of their audience and ask questions aimed at solving a suspected problem.

Secondary Research

Secondary research is all the data and public records you have at your disposal to draw conclusions from (e.g. trend reports, market statistics, industry content, and sales data you already have on your business). Secondary research is particularly useful for analyzing your competitors . The main buckets your secondary market research will fall into include:

Public Sources

These sources are your first and most-accessible layer of material when conducting secondary market research. They're often free to find and review — lots of bang for your buck here.

Government statistics are one of the most common types of public sources according to Entrepreneur. Two U.S. examples of public market data are the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor & Statistics , both of which offer helpful information on the state of various industries nationwide.

Commercial Sources

These sources often come in the form of market reports, consisting of industry insight compiled by a research agency like Pew , Gartner , or Forrester . Because this info is so portable and distributable, it typically costs money to download and obtain.

Internal Sources

Internal sources deserve more credit for supporting market research than they generally get. Why? This is the market data your organization already has!

Average revenue per sale, customer retention rates, and other historical data on the health of old and new accounts can all help you draw conclusions on what your buyers might want right now.

Now that we've covered these overarching market research categories, let's get more specific and look at the various types of market research you might choose to conduct.

Types of Market Research

  • Focus Groups
  • Product/ Service Use Research
  • Observation-Based Research
  • Buyer Persona Research
  • Market Segmentation Research
  • Pricing Research
  • Competitive Analysis Research
  • Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Research
  • Brand Awareness Research
  • Campaign Research

1. Interviews

Interviews allow for face-to-face discussions (in-person and virtual) so you can allow for a natural flow or conversation and watch your interviewee's body language while doing so.

Your interviewees can answer questions about themselves to help you design your buyer personas. These buyer personas describe your ideal customer's age, family size, budget, job title, the challenges they face at work, and similar aspects of their lifestyle. Having this buyer profile in hand can shape your entire marketing strategy, from the features you add to your product to the content you publish on your website.

2. Focus Groups

Focus groups provide you with a handful of carefully-selected people that can test out your product, watch a demo, provide feedback, and/or answer specific questions.

This type of market research can give you ideas for product differentiation, or the qualities of your product that make it unique in the marketplace. Consider asking your focus group questions about (and showing them examples of) your services, and ultimately use the group's feedback to make these services better.

3. Product/Service Use Research

Product or service use research offers insight into how and why your audience uses your product or service, and specific features of that item. This type of market research also gives you an idea of the product or service's usability for your target audience.

In a 2020 report , respondents rated usability testing most highly in terms of usefulness for discovering user insights (rating it 8.7 out of 10). By comparison, digital analytics was rated 7.7, and user surveys 6.4.

4. Observation-Based Research

Observation-based research allows you to sit back and watch the ways in which your target audience members go about using your product or service, what works well in terms of UX , what roadblocks they hit, and which aspects of it could be easier for them to use and apply.

5. Buyer Persona Research

Buyer persona research gives you a realistic look at who makes up your target audience, what their challenges are, why they want your product or service, what they need from your business and brand, and more.

6. Market Segmentation Research

Market segmentation research allows you to categorize your target audience into different groups (or segments) based on specific and defining characteristics — this way, you can determine effective ways to meet their needs, understand their pain points and expectations, learn about their goals, and more.

7. Pricing Research

Pricing research gives you an idea of what similar products or services in your market sell for, what your target audience expects to pay — and is willing to pay — for whatever it is you sell, and what's a fair price for you to list your product or service at. All of this information will help you define your pricing strategy .

8. Competitive Analysis

Competitive analyses are valuable because they give you a deep understanding of the competition in your market and industry. You can learn about what's doing well in your industry, what your target audience is already going for in terms of products like yours, which of your competitors should you work to keep up with and surpass, and how you can clearly separate yourself from the competition .

9. Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Research

Customer satisfaction and loyalty research give you a look into how you can get current customers to return for more business and what will motivate them to do so (e.g. loyalty programs , rewards, remarkable customer service). This research will help you discover the most-effective ways to promote delight among your customers . If you're using a CRM system, see if you're able to send out automated customer feedback surveys to aid in this process.

10. Brand Awareness Research

Brand awareness research tells you about what your target audience knows about and recognizes from your brand. It tells you about the associations your audience members make when they think about your business and what they believe you're all about.

11. Campaign Research

Campaign research entails looking into your past campaigns and analyzing their success among your target audience and current customers. It requires experimentation and then a deep dive into what reached and resonated with your audience so you can keep those elements in mind for your future campaigns and hone in on the aspects of what you do that matters most to those people.

Now that you know about the categories and types of market research, let's review how you can conduct your market research .

Here's how to do market research step-by-step.

How to Do Market Research

  • Define your buyer persona.
  • Identify a persona group to engage.
  • Prepare research questions for your market research participants.
  • List your primary competitors.
  • Summarize your findings.

1. Define your buyer persona.

Before you dive into how customers in your industry make buying decisions, you must first understand who they are.

This is where your buyer personas come in handy. Buyer personas — sometimes referred to as marketing personas — are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.

Use a free tool to create a buyer persona that your entire company can use to market, sell, and serve better.

How to do market research defining your buyer persona

They help you visualize your audience, streamline your communications, and inform your strategy. Some key characteristics you should be keen on including in your buyer persona are:

  • Job title(s)
  • Family size
  • Major challenges

The idea is to use your persona as a guideline for how to effectively reach and learn about the real audience members in your industry. Also, you may find that your business lends itself to more than one persona — that's fine! You just need to be thoughtful about each specific persona when you're optimizing and planning your content and campaigns.

To get started with creating your personas, check out these free templates , as well as this helpful tool.

2. Identify a persona group to engage.

Now that you know who your buyer personas are, use that information to help you identify a group to engage to conduct your market research with — this should be a representative sample of your target customers so you can better understand their actual characteristics, challenges, and buying habits.

The group you identify to engage should also be made of people who recently made a purchase or purposefully decided not to make one. Here are some more guidelines and tips to help you get the right participants for your research.

How to Identify the Right People to Engage for Market Research

When choosing who to engage for your market research, start by focusing on people who have the characteristics that apply to your buyer persona. You should also:

Aim for 10 participants per buyer persona.

We recommend focusing on one persona, but if you feel it's necessary to research multiple personas, be sure to recruit a separate sample group for each one.

Select people who have recently interacted with you.

You may want to focus on people that have completed an evaluation within the past six months — or up to a year if you have a longer sales cycle or niche market. You'll be asking very detailed questions so it's important that their experience is fresh.

Free Focus Group Kit

Gather a mix of participants..

You want to recruit people who have purchased your product, purchased a competitor's product, and decided not to purchase anything at all. While your customers will be the easiest to find and recruit, sourcing information from those who aren't customers (yet!) will help you develop a balanced view of your market.

Here are some more details on how to select this mix of participants:

  • Pull a list of customers who made a recent purchase. As we mentioned before, this is usually the easiest set of buyers to recruit. If you're using a CRM system with list segmentation capabilities , you can run a report of deals that closed within the past six months and filter it for the characteristics you're looking for. Otherwise, you can work with your sales team to get a list of appropriate accounts from them.
  • Pull a list of customers who were in an active evaluation, but didn't make a purchase. You should get a mix of buyers who either purchased from a competitor or decided not to make a purchase. Again, you can get this list from your CRM or from whatever system your Sales team uses to track deals.
  • Call for participants on social media. Try reaching out to the folks that follow you on social media, but decided not to buy from you. There's a chance that some of them will be willing to talk to you and tell you why they ultimately decided not to buy your product.
  • Leverage your own network. Get the word out to your coworkers, former colleagues, and LinkedIn connections that you're conducting a study. Even if your direct connections don't qualify, some of them will likely have a coworker, friend, or family member who does.
  • Choose an incentive. Time is precious, so you'll need to think about how you will motivate someone to spend 30-45 minutes on you and your study. On a tight budget? You can reward participants for free by giving them exclusive access to content. Another option? Send a simple handwritten 'thank you' note once the study is complete.

3. Prepare research questions for your market research participants.

The best way to make sure you get the most out of your conversations is to be prepared. You should always create a discussion guide — whether it's for a focus group, online survey, or a phone interview — to make sure you cover all of the top-of-mind questions and use your time wisely.

(Note: This is not intended to be a script. The discussions should be natural and conversational, so we encourage you to go out of order or probe into certain areas as you see fit.)

Your discussion guide should be in an outline format, with a time allotment and open-ended questions for each section.

Wait, all open-ended questions?

Yes — this is a golden rule of market research. You never want to "lead the witness" by asking yes and no questions, as that puts you at risk of unintentionally swaying their thoughts by leading with your own hypothesis. Asking open-ended questions also helps you avoid one-word answers (which aren't very helpful for you).

Example Outline of a 30-Minute Survey

Here's a general outline for a 30-minute survey for one B2B buyer. You can use these as talking points for an in-person interview, or as questions posed on a digital survey that can be made with tools like HubSpot's free online form builder , to administer as a survey to your target customers.

Background Information (5 Minutes)

Ask the buyer to give you a little background information (their title, how long they've been with the company, and so on). Then, ask a fun/easy question to warm things up (first concert attended, favorite restaurant in town, last vacation, etc.).

Remember, you want to get to know your buyers in pretty specific ways. You might be able to capture basic information such as age, location, and job title from your contact list, there are some personal and professional challenges you can really only learn by asking.

Here are some other key background questions to ask your target audience:

  • Describe how your team is structured.
  • Tell me about your personal job responsibilities.
  • What are the team's goals and how do you measure them?
  • What has been your biggest challenge in the past year?

Now, make a transition to acknowledge the specific purchase or interaction they made that led to you including them in the study. The next three stages of the buyer's journey will focus specifically on that purchase.

Awareness (5 Minutes)

Here, you want to understand how they first realized they had a problem that needed to be solved without getting into whether or not they knew about your brand yet.

  • Think back to when you first realized you needed a [name the product/service category, but not yours specifically]. What challenges were you facing at the time?
  • How did you know that something in this category could help you?
  • How familiar were you with different options on the market?

Consideration (10 Minutes)

Now you want to get very specific about how and where the buyer researched potential solutions. Plan to interject to ask for more details.

  • What was the first thing you did to research potential solutions? How helpful was this source?
  • Where did you go to find more information?

If they don't come up organically, ask about search engines, websites visited, people consulted, and so on. Probe, as appropriate, with some of the following questions:

  • How did you find that source?
  • How did you use vendor websites?
  • What words specifically did you search on Google?
  • How helpful was it? How could it be better?
  • Who provided the most (and least) helpful information? What did that look like?
  • Tell me about your experiences with the sales people from each vendor.

Decision (10 Minutes)

  • Which of the sources you described above was the most influential in driving your decision?
  • What, if any, criteria did you establish to compare the alternatives?
  • What vendors made it to the short list and what were the pros/cons of each?
  • Who else was involved in the final decision? What role did each of these people play?
  • What factors ultimately influenced your final purchasing decision?

Here, you want to wrap up and understand what could have been better for the buyer.

  • Ask them what their ideal buying process would look like. How would it differ from what they experienced?
  • Allow time for further questions on their end.
  • Don't forget to thank them for their time and confirm their address to send a thank-you note or incentive.

4. List your primary competitors.

List your primary competitors — keep in mind listing the competition isn't always as simple as Company X versus Company Y.

Sometimes, a division of a company might compete with your main product or service, even though that company's brand might put more effort in another area.

For example, Apple is known for its laptops and mobile devices but Apple Music competes with Spotify over its music streaming service.

From a content standpoint, you might compete with a blog, YouTube channel, or similar publication for inbound website visitors — even though their products don't overlap with yours at all.

And a toothpaste company might compete with magazines like or Prevention on certain blog topics related to health and hygiene even though the magazines don't actually sell oral care products.

Identifying Industry Competitors

To identify competitors whose products or services overlap with yours, determine which industry or industries you're pursuing. Start high-level, using terms like education, construction, media & entertainment, food service, healthcare, retail, financial services, telecommunications, and agriculture.

The list goes on, but find an industry term that you identify with, and use it to create a list of companies that also belong to this industry. You can build your list the following ways:

  • Review your industry quadrant on G2 Crowd: In certain industries, this is your best first step in secondary market research. G2 Crowd aggregates user ratings and social data to create "quadrants," where you can see companies plotted as contenders, leaders, niche, and high performers in their respective industries. G2 Crowd specializes in digital content, IT services, HR, ecommerce, and related business services.
  • Download a market report: Companies like Forrester and Gartner offer both free and gated market forecasts every year on the vendors who are leading their industry. On Forrester's website, for example, you can select "Latest Research" from the navigation bar and browse Forrester's latest material using a variety of criteria to narrow your search. These reports are good assets to save on your computer.
  • Search using social media: Believe it or not, social networks make great company directories if you use the search bar correctly. On LinkedIn, for example, select the search bar and enter the name of the industry you're pursuing. Then, under "More," select "Companies" to narrow your results to just the businesses that include this or a similar industry term on their LinkedIn profile.

Identifying Content Competitors

Search engines are your best friends in this area of secondary market research. To find the online publications with which you compete, take the overarching industry term you identified in the section above, and come up with a handful of more specific industry terms your company identifies with.

A catering business, for example, might generally be a "food service" company, but also consider itself a vendor in "event catering," "cake catering," "baked goods," and more.

Once you have this list, do the following:

  • Google it: Don't underestimate the value in seeing which websites come up when you run a search on Google for the industry terms that describe your company. You might find a mix of product developers, blogs, magazines, and more.
  • Compare your search results against your buyer persona: Remember the buyer persona you created during the primary research stage, earlier in this article? Use it to examine how likely a publication you found through Google could steal website traffic from you. If the content the website publishes seems like the stuff your buyer persona would want to see, it's a potential competitor, and should be added to your list of competitors.

After a series of similar Google searches for the industry terms you identify with, look for repetition in the website domains that have come up.

Examine the first two or three results pages for each search you conducted. These websites are clearly respected for the content they create in your industry, and should be watched carefully as you build your own library of videos, reports, web pages, and blog posts.

5. Summarize your findings.

Feeling overwhelmed by the notes you took? We suggest looking for common themes that will help you tell a story and create a list of action items.

To make the process easier, try using your favorite presentation software to make a report, as it will make it easy to add in quotes, diagrams, or call clips.

Feel free to add your own flair, but the following outline should help you craft a clear summary:

  • Background: Your goals and why you conducted this study.
  • Participants: Who you talked to. A table works well so you can break groups down by persona and customer/prospect.
  • Executive Summary : What were the most interesting things you learned? What do you plan to do about it?
  • Awareness: Describe the common triggers that lead someone to enter into an evaluation. (Quotes can be very powerful.)
  • Consideration: Provide the main themes you uncovered, as well as the detailed sources buyers use when conducting their evaluation.
  • Decision: Paint the picture of how a decision is really made by including the people at the center of influence and any product features or information that can make or break a deal.
  • Action Plan: Your analysis probably uncovered a few campaigns you can run to get your brand in front of buyers earlier and/or more effectively. Provide your list of priorities, a timeline, and the impact it will have on your business.

Lastly, let's review a resource that can help you compile everything we just discussed in a simple yet effective way (plus, it's free!).

Market Research Report Template

Within a market research kit, there are a number of critical pieces of information for your business's success. Let's take a look at what those different kit elements are next.

market research kit and templates from HubSpot

Download HubSpot's free, editable market research report template here.

1. Five Forces Analysis Template

five forces analysis template

Use Porter's Five Forces Model to understand an industry by analyzing five different criteria and how high the power, threat, or rivalry in each area is — here are the five criteria:

  • Competitive rivalry
  • Threat of new entrants
  • Threat of substitution
  • Buyer power
  • Supplier power

Download a free, editable Five Forces Analysis template here.

2. SWOT Analysis Template

free editable swot analysis template

A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis looks at your internal strengths and weaknesses, and your external opportunities and threats within the market.

A SWOT analysis highlights direct areas of opportunity your company can continue, build, focus on, and work to overcome.

Download a free, editable SWOT Analysis template here.

3. Market Survey Template

Both market surveys and focus groups ( which we'll cover in the next section ) help you uncover important information about your buyer personas , target audience, current customers, market, competition, and more (e.g. demand for your product or service, potential pricing, impressions of your branding, etc.).

Surveys should contain a variety of question types, like multiple choice, rankings, and open-ended responses. Ask quantitative and short-answer questions to save you time and to more easily draw conclusions. (Save longer questions that will warrant more detailed responses for your focus groups.)

Here are some categories of questions you should ask via survey:

  • Demographic questions
  • Business questions
  • Competitor questions
  • Industry questions
  • Brand questions
  • Product questions

Download a free, editable Market Survey template here.

4. Focus Group Template

Focus groups are an opportunity to collect in-depth, qualitative data from your real customers or members of your target audience. You should ask your focus group participants open-ended questions. While doing so, keep these tips top of mind:

  • Set a limit for the number of questions you're asking (after all, they're open-ended).
  • Provide participants with a prototype or demonstration.
  • Ask participants how they feel about your price.
  • Ask participants about your competition.
  • Offer participants time at the end of the session for final comments, questions, or concerns.

Download a free, editable Focus Group template here.

Market Research Examples

1. disney uses kid-centric focus groups to test new characters and ideas..

The Walt Disney Company can spend millions crafting what its Animation Studio team believes is a worthwhile story, but it wisely focuses on its intended audience — children — when testing how well a character or topic performs.

A few times each year, Disney executives meet with preschoolers and kindergartners in kid-centric focus groups to get their opinions and insights on TV episodes, Disney characters, and more.

Why is this an effective market research strategy? Because children are ultimately the audience Disney hopes to delight — so collecting their feedback is invaluable to iterating on their existing content and ensuring it continues to meet its audiences' preferences.

2. KFC tested its meatless product in select markets before launching nationwide.

In 2019, KFC began developing and testing a new meatless version of its chicken. Rather than instantly rolling the product out nationwide, however, it started small: In select stores in the Atlanta, Georgia area .

This is an easy, effective example of conducting market research to determine how well a new product sells on a smaller scale before dedicating too many resources to it. If the meatless chicken flopped in Georgia, KFC would need to change the product before re-launching it to the market.

3. Yamaha conducted a survey to determine whether they should use knobs or sliding faders on the Montage keyboard.

When Yamaha, a Japanese-based corporation that produces a variety of products ranging from motorcycles to golf cars to musical instruments, began developing its new Montage keyboard, the team was unsure whether to use knobs or sliding faders on the product.

So Yamaha used Qualtrics to send a survey to their customers, and received 400 responses in a few hours.

Using survey feedback helped Yamaha ensure it was designing a product that exactly fit its audiences' preferences.

4. The Body Shop used social listening to determine how they should reposition brand campaigns to respond to what their customers cared most about.

The Body Shop has long been known for offering ethically sourced and natural products, and proudly touts "sustainability" as a core value.

To dive deeper into the sustainability subtopics that meant the most to their audiences, the team at The Body Shop tracked conversations and ultimately found their audiences cared a lot about refills.

Using this information helped the Body Shop team feel confident when relaunching their Refill Program across 400 stores globally in 2021 , and another 400 in 2022. Market research proved they were on the right track with their refill concept, and demonstrated increased efforts were needed to show Body Shop customers that the Body Shop cared about their customers' values.

Conduct Market Research to Grow Better

Conducting market research can be a very eye-opening experience. Even if you think you know your buyers pretty well, completing the study will likely uncover new channels and messaging tips to help improve your interactions.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Write a Market Research Plan (+ Free Template)

Chris martin, what do uk consumers think about market research.

When I sat down to plan this blog, I immediately thought: what aspect of market research do I not th...

Gareth Bowden

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A market research plan, similar to a brief, is a vital document that details important information about your market research project. Though it is often an overlooked step of the market research process , an effective plan is often a critical factor in determining whether or not your market research efforts are successful.

Why? Because a well-thought through plan, more so than objectives alone, can be a vital instrument in focusing your investment. It ensures you know, ahead of the commencement date, the timeline, budget and desired outcomes from the project. It can even be used as a tool for receiving quicker sign-off from management when embarking on a new venture.

But it’s also important to remember that the research plan is not just for your team. To make full use of this document, it should be written in a way that can be distributed to agency partners as well – ensuring that your insight team and specialist partners are all working towards the same goal.

Tips for Crafting a Successful Plan

The first rule of writing a successful market research plan is to keep it short. The perfect length is between 1-2 pages, but as an absolute maximum try to ensure that it never exceeds 3. This will give you enough space to explain the background, scope and practicalities of the project while ensuring it is concise enough to be read in full. Throughout these few short pages, the tone of your plan should be informative. Remember that you are outlining information that you already know.

Write in a way that holistically encompasses all aspects of the project. Throughout the duration of your scripting, data collection, analysis and reporting stages of your project you should always be referring back to this document in order to remain focused. As any researcher knows, one of the biggest challenges in any research project is staying true to your original objectives.

With both exploratory and confirmatory research alike, new information is likely to arise which may spark other ideas or bring light to previously unknown issues. Remember these, but set them aside for further investigation at a later date. Travelling too far down the rabbit hole is the quickest way to overspend and under deliver on your original goal.

The 10 Elements of the Best Research Plans

First, let me preface this with a reminder: every project is different. A long term co-creation community will have different needs and requirements to a customer feedback survey or ad testing project. However, despite this – it is important to give equal consideration to all projects, and plan each with the same high degree of meticulous care. With this in mind, these are the 10 key aspects we recommend that all research plans should include:

1. Overview

Use this first section to outline the background to the problem that you are attempting to solve. Include background information on the business to provide context, as well as the circumstances that have led to the need for research. Overviews should be limited to 200 words at most, with most of the word count dedicated to the business circumstances & challenges surrounding the research.

2. Objectives

Arguably the most important aspect of the entire document, objectives should be in bullet point format. List 3-5 of the decisions or initiatives that the research will inform – this will become the remit of the project. Below are a few examples of both well and poorly written objectives:

Well written research objectives:

  • Understand the channels in which our customers are most comfortable shopping, in order to decide which should be prioritised in the 2017 Q1 budget
  • Develop an active co-creation community that contributes 2 user-generated product improvements for testing to the R & D team per month
  • Learn what is leading to an increase in customer churn so that a new retention strategy can be put in place within 12 weeks

Poorly written research objectives:

  • Survey 1,000 potential customers to find out how our products can be improved
  • Develop a panel of employees that are able to provide answers to research questions on an ad-hoc basis
  • Learn how our company is perceived in comparison to competitors and how we can stand out in the marketplace

3. Deliverable outcomes

This section acts as a list what you expect to be produced at the end of the project. This can include, but is not limited to: a target number of responses you expect to receive, descriptions of how the data should be presented and the extent to which the data will be used to inform future decisions. In long term projects such as panels or communities, this may include a target for the amount of decisions that research is expected to inform and/or a pipeline for new ideas in exploratory studies.

4. Target audience

Different to sample, your target audience describes the population that you wish to research. This can be defined by a number of factors depending on the nature of your project. Some of the most common include: demographics, psychographics, life stages and company/ product interaction.

5. Sample plan

The sample plan should be used to indicate the amount of participants you wish to research, as well as a breakdown of each group. This will be affected by the choice to use qualitative, quantitative or multi-method approaches, as well as the estimated size of the target population.

6. Research Methods

List the different research methods that you plan to use in your project. This will be used by your team and agency partners to ensure that the insight you need comes from the most appropriate tools. Be sure to include any non-traditional methods you plan to use as well – it’s important that your team are aware of how data will be captured, even if it is being gathered by an experimental technique.

7. Timeline

These usually take the form of a Gantt chart, but can vary depending on the scope and length of your project. Try to break down tasks as much as possible but be wary of dependencies within your chart. Be sure to schedule enough time in case some research tasks over-run or response rates are lower than expected.

Perhaps the most dreaded aspect of any research plan, budgeting is never easy. But by providing a breakdown of costs and outlining which elements of the project require most investment, a well-planned budget can be a benefit rather than a hurdle.

9 & 10. Ethical and Further considerations

Finally, you should outline any ethical/ other considerations or issues that may arise throughout the course of your project. Whether these are as simple as a conflict of interest or a concern about supplier relationships – this is your chance to address any problems that may arise before they do.

Free Market Research Plan Template

Use this link to download our   free market research plan template . The template comes complete with each of the sections outlined above, with instructions on usage and tips on how to make the most out of it. Currently available in .docx format, please email   chris.mar[email protected]  if you have any problems with the download.

What do you believe should be included in a successful market research plan? Share your advice with us in the comments below and join the conversation.

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Home Market Research

How to Write a Market Research Plan

In the past, we BUDGETED for market research.  This usually included our annual customer satisfaction survey and then we simply looked at our marketing plan an set aside a budget for the new product research we were going to do in the next year.

These days things are a little different.  I find myself recommending a market research plan over and over to small businesses and that means that I had better start explaining what a market research plan looks like.

LEARN ABOUT: Market research vs marketing research

Why You Need a Research Plan NOW – When You Didn’t Need One in the Past?

The short answer is that it’s a response to several trends that are going on in our lives today – that weren’t there in the past:

  • Social Media – The ability to use social media as a tool to collect feedback and analyze text and chatter from your marketplace about your company and your brand is a relatively new phenomenon.  The challenge is that if left unmanaged and under-leveraged, it goes to waste as a resource of valuable market research information.

LEARN ABOUT:  Market research industry

  • Time Slicing – This is an interesting behavioral trend among all of us.  You can easily compare it to multi-tasking.   Time slicing, however is more like inserting short tasks in between larger tasks.  Such as checking emails on your mobile device while waiting in line.
  • Mobile Devices – The use of mobile devices as computers and communication tools and quite literally “time killers” opens up a new way to reach our respondents when they have just a few minutes to spare.

The Market Research Plan Outline

  • Set Goals :  I think it’s important to set a general goal or direction about what decisions you’re going to be making over the course of the year.  For the sake of this outline, I’m treating goals as more general statements such as “Start marketing products online.”  The benefit of making a general goal statement is that it gets your mind focused in a particular direction and allows for some flexibility – which you’re going to need as you start strategizing around the information and feedback that you’re planning on collecting.
  • Set objectives :  Every research project has objectives and every marketing plan has objectives.  So it stands to reason that your research plan will too.  In this case, your objectives around the research plan might include the decisions that you are trying to make right now around that general goal of “marketing products online”.  Some possible objectives might include understanding who our customers would be online, or how our target customer shops online or to what degree do they use mobile devices to shop or research products and services.
  • Lay out your collection channels. You’ve heard the term distribution channel, well in research I call it the collection channel.  This involves listing all the possible ways that you can collect feedback and information from your target audience.  These might include online surveys, MicroPoll, IdeaScale (Crowd sourcing), mobile device surveys, social media, and some others.
  • Brainstorm a list of questions .  Now you can start brainstorming questions that will help you make your decisions.  I like brainstorming questions first because it focuses your mind on exactly what you want to know and why you want to know it.  We can always edit the questions later based on what collection channel is best suited for the question.
  • Assign questions to the collection channels. Again none of this is cast in stone.  But it helps you get your mind around how to best leverage the collection tools that are available to you.  Start assigning your questions to the channels that will provide the best information.  For example – treat your social media channels as you might a focus group. Start conversations with your Facebook Fans and ask questions.  LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are all ideal channels for getting your target audience involved in helping you develop more specific questions around the issues that your customers care most about.  Not only are you getting input into how to frame questions and what to focus on – you’re getting some additional marketing and PR buzz about your mission and vision about what you’re developing.
  • Use crowd sourcing tools like IdeaScale to prioritize suggestions .  Now that you’ve gotten ideas from social media conversations – create an IdeaScale space and seed the space with the feedback you’ve learned.  Then launch that page to your social media community and ask them to vote and continue the feedback on this space.  Don’t forget to visit the space and offer feedback to the community on how your development is going.  Again – this is more marketing and PR.
  • Start putting your online surveys together. Now you might be ready to put some online marketing surveys together.  Keep in mind that NONE of your respondents want to spend more than 5 minutes on a survey.  Just like online videos. their attention span is about 2-3 minutes at best.  After that they are bored and tired and leave.  If your survey takes longer than 5 minutes – you will need to look for alternative ways to ask those questions.
  • Use MicroPoll to supplement your online survey. MicroPoll is underutilized as a survey instrument.  People LOVE polls because they are short and they offer immediate feedback.  If your online survey takes longer than 5 minutes.  Take a look at which questions you can transfer to MicroPoll.  You can launch a new MicroPoll every week.  This will keep your audience engaged and involved in what you’re up to.  (I think that’s more marketing and PR – while doing research – that’s what I call leverage and multi-tasking)
  • Can you take it viral? Another important question to ask yourself is if you can take your online survey viral in order to collect feedback from a broader market segment than you are able to reach.  One word of warning.  Viral surveys are most successful when you are asking very broad and socially relevant questions.  In other words – questions around topics that people in a broader community can answer.  NOT technically sophisticated questions or questions that contain customer or sensitive information.  A good question for a viral survey might be “What percentage or sales do you spend on market research?”  This is a general enough question anyone can answer AND the answers across industry segments would be valuable.

LEARN ABOUT: market research trends

Last Minute Tips for Successful Market Research Plans

  • Keep it short and simple.  No more than 5 pages.
  • Leverage the free and low-cost tools that are available
  • Brainstorm great questions.  This is the key.  No respondent wants to answer bad questions.

In future posts – I will break some of these down into more focused practical how-to’s.  In the meantime — do YOU currently do a market research plan?  What are your tips, Do’s and Don’ts?

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  • 6.3 Steps in a Successful Marketing Research Plan
  • 1 Unit Introduction
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  • 1.1 Marketing and the Marketing Process
  • 1.2 The Marketing Mix and the 4Ps of Marketing
  • 1.3 Factors Comprising and Affecting the Marketing Environment
  • 1.4 Evolution of the Marketing Concept
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  • Chapter Summary
  • Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
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  • Marketing Plan Exercise
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  • 2.1 Developing a Strategic Plan
  • 2.2 The Role of Marketing in the Strategic Planning Process
  • 2.3 Purpose and Structure of the Marketing Plan
  • 2.4 Marketing Plan Progress Using Metrics
  • 2.5 Ethical Issues in Developing a Marketing Strategy
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 3.1 Understanding Consumer Markets and Buying Behavior
  • 3.2 Factors That Influence Consumer Buying Behavior
  • 3.3 The Consumer Purchasing Decision Process
  • 3.4 Ethical Issues in Consumer Buying Behavior
  • 4.1 The Business-to-Business (B2B) Market
  • 4.2 Buyers and Buying Situations in a B2B Market
  • 4.3 Major Influences on B2B Buyer Behavior
  • 4.4 Stages in the B2B Buying Process
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  • 5.1 Market Segmentation and Consumer Markets
  • 5.2 Segmentation of B2B Markets
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  • 5.4 Essential Factors in Effective Market Segmentation
  • 5.5 Selecting Target Markets
  • 5.6 Product Positioning
  • 5.7 Ethical Concerns and Target Marketing
  • 6.1 Marketing Research and Big Data
  • 6.2 Sources of Marketing Information
  • 6.4 Ethical Issues in Marketing Research
  • 7.1 The Global Market and Advantages of International Trade
  • 7.2 Assessment of Global Markets for Opportunities
  • 7.3 Entering the Global Arena
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  • 8.1 Strategic Marketing: Standardization versus Adaptation
  • 8.2 Diversity and Inclusion Marketing
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  • 3 Unit Introduction
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  • 9.5 Branding and Brand Development
  • 9.6 Forms of Brand Development, Brand Loyalty, and Brand Metrics
  • 9.7 Creating Value through Packaging and Labeling
  • 9.8 Environmental Concerns Regarding Packaging
  • 9.9 Ethical Issues in Packaging
  • 10.1 New Products from a Customer’s Perspective
  • 10.2 Stages of the New Product Development Process
  • 10.3 The Use of Metrics in Evaluating New Products
  • 10.4 Factors Contributing to the Success or Failure of New Products
  • 10.5 Stages in the Consumer Adoption Process for New Products
  • 10.6 Ethical Considerations in New Product Development
  • 11.1 Classification of Services
  • 11.2 The Service-Profit Chain Model and the Service Marketing Triangle
  • 11.3 The Gap Model of Service Quality
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  • 12.1 Pricing and Its Role in the Marketing Mix
  • 12.2 The Five Critical Cs of Pricing
  • 12.3 The Five-Step Procedure for Establishing Pricing Policy
  • 12.4 Pricing Strategies for New Products
  • 12.5 Pricing Strategies and Tactics for Existing Products
  • 12.6 Ethical Considerations in Pricing
  • 13.1 The Promotion Mix and Its Elements
  • 13.2 The Communication Process
  • 13.3 Integrated Marketing Communications
  • 13.4 Steps in the IMC Planning Process
  • 13.5 Ethical Issues in Marketing Communication
  • 14.1 Advertising in the Promotion Mix
  • 14.2 Major Decisions in Developing an Advertising Plan
  • 14.3 The Use of Metrics to Measure Advertising Campaign Effectiveness
  • 14.4 Public Relations and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
  • 14.5 The Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Relations
  • 14.6 Ethical Concerns in Advertising and Public Relations
  • 15.1 Personal Selling and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
  • 15.2 Classifications of Salespeople Involved in Personal Selling
  • 15.3 Steps in the Personal Selling Process
  • 15.4 Management of the Sales Force
  • 15.5 Sales Promotion and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
  • 15.6 Main Types of Sales Promotion
  • 15.7 Ethical Issues in Personal Selling and Sales Promotion
  • 16.1 Traditional Direct Marketing
  • 16.2 Social Media and Mobile Marketing
  • 16.3 Metrics Used to Evaluate the Success of Online Marketing
  • 16.4 Ethical Issues in Digital Marketing and Social Media
  • 17.1 The Use and Value of Marketing Channels
  • 17.2 Types of Marketing Channels
  • 17.3 Factors Influencing Channel Choice
  • 17.4 Managing the Distribution Channel
  • 17.5 The Supply Chain and Its Functions
  • 17.6 Logistics and Its Functions
  • 17.7 Ethical Issues in Supply Chain Management
  • 18.1 Retailing and the Role of Retailers in the Distribution Channel
  • 18.2 Major Types of Retailers
  • 18.3 Retailing Strategy Decisions
  • 18.4 Recent Trends in Retailing
  • 18.5 Wholesaling
  • 18.6 Recent Trends in Wholesaling
  • 18.7 Ethical Issues in Retailing and Wholesaling
  • 19.1 Sustainable Marketing
  • 19.2 Traditional Marketing versus Sustainable Marketing
  • 19.3 The Benefits of Sustainable Marketing
  • 19.4 Sustainable Marketing Principles
  • 19.5 Purpose-Driven Marketing

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • 1 Identify and describe the steps in a marketing research plan.
  • 2 Discuss the different types of data research.
  • 3 Explain how data is analyzed.
  • 4 Discuss the importance of effective research reports.

Define the Problem

There are seven steps to a successful marketing research project (see Figure 6.3 ). Each step will be explained as we investigate how a marketing research project is conducted.

The seven steps to a successful market research project are: 1. define the problem; 2. develop the research plan; 3. select the data collection method; 4. design the sample; 5. collect the data; 6. analyze and interpret the data; and 7. prepare the research report.

The first step, defining the problem, is often a realization that more information is needed in order to make a data-driven decision. Problem definition is the realization that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. An entrepreneur may be interested in opening a small business but must first define the problem that is to be investigated. A marketing research problem in this example is to discover the needs of the community and also to identify a potentially successful business venture.

Many times, researchers define a research question or objectives in this first step. Objectives of this research study could include: identify a new business that would be successful in the community in question, determine the size and composition of a target market for the business venture, and collect any relevant primary and secondary data that would support such a venture. At this point, the definition of the problem may be “Why are cat owners not buying our new cat toy subscription service?”

Additionally, during this first step we would want to investigate our target population for research. This is similar to a target market, as it is the group that comprises the population of interest for the study. In order to have a successful research outcome, the researcher should start with an understanding of the problem in the current situational environment.

Develop the Research Plan

Step two is to develop the research plan. What type of research is necessary to meet the established objectives of the first step? How will this data be collected? Additionally, what is the time frame of the research and budget to consider? If you must have information in the next week, a different plan would be implemented than in a situation where several months were allowed. These are issues that a researcher should address in order to meet the needs identified.

Research is often classified as coming from one of two types of data: primary and secondary. Primary data is unique information that is collected by the specific researcher with the current project in mind. This type of research doesn’t currently exist until it is pulled together for the project. Examples of primary data collection include survey, observation, experiment, or focus group data that is gathered for the current project.

Secondary data is any research that was completed for another purpose but can be used to help inform the research process. Secondary data comes in many forms and includes census data, journal articles, previously collected survey or focus group data of related topics, and compiled company data. Secondary data may be internal, such as the company’s sales records for a previous quarter, or external, such as an industry report of all related product sales. Syndicated data , a type of external secondary data, is available through subscription services and is utilized by many marketers. As you can see in Table 6.1 , primary and secondary data features are often opposite—the positive aspects of primary data are the negative side of secondary data.

There are four research types that can be used: exploratory, descriptive, experimental, and ethnographic research designs (see Figure 6.4 ). Each type has specific formats of data that can be collected. Qualitative research can be shared through words, descriptions, and open-ended comments. Qualitative data gives context but cannot be reduced to a statistic. Qualitative data examples are categorical and include case studies, diary accounts, interviews, focus groups, and open-ended surveys. By comparison, quantitative data is data that can be reduced to number of responses. The number of responses to each answer on a multiple-choice question is quantitative data. Quantitative data is numerical and includes things like age, income, group size, and height.

The four research types are exploratory or qualitative, descriptive or quantitative, experimental or causal, and ethnographic. Exploratory is research conducted that is more general to learn more about the industry or market. Descriptive is data collected to describe the situation in the market and help define an opinion, attitude, or behavior. Experimental is studies that define a cause-and-effect relationship between two factors. Ethnographic is a method of collecting data that is conducted by observing people's natural behavior.

Exploratory research is usually used when additional general information in desired about a topic. When in the initial steps of a new project, understanding the landscape is essential, so exploratory research helps the researcher to learn more about the general nature of the industry. Exploratory research can be collected through focus groups, interviews, and review of secondary data. When examining an exploratory research design, the best use is when your company hopes to collect data that is generally qualitative in nature. 7

For instance, if a company is considering a new service for registered users but is not quite sure how well the new service will be received or wants to gain clarity of exactly how customers may use a future service, the company can host a focus group. Focus groups and interviews will be examined later in the chapter. The insights collected during the focus group can assist the company when designing the service, help to inform promotional campaign options, and verify that the service is going to be a viable option for the company.

Descriptive research design takes a bigger step into collection of data through primary research complemented by secondary data. Descriptive research helps explain the market situation and define an “opinion, attitude, or behavior” of a group of consumers, employees, or other interested groups. 8 The most common method of deploying a descriptive research design is through the use of a survey. Several types of surveys will be defined later in this chapter. Descriptive data is quantitative in nature, meaning the data can be distilled into a statistic, such as in a table or chart.

Again, descriptive data is helpful in explaining the current situation. In the opening example of LEGO , the company wanted to describe the situation regarding children’s use of its product. In order to gather a large group of opinions, a survey was created. The data that was collected through this survey allowed the company to measure the existing perceptions of parents so that alterations could be made to future plans for the company.

Experimental research , also known as causal research , helps to define a cause-and-effect relationship between two or more factors. This type of research goes beyond a correlation to determine which feature caused the reaction. Researchers generally use some type of experimental design to determine a causal relationship. An example is A/B testing, a situation where one group of research participants, group A, is exposed to one treatment and then compared to the group B participants, who experience a different situation. An example might be showing two different television commercials to a panel of consumers and then measuring the difference in perception of the product. Another example would be to have two separate packaging options available in different markets. This research would answer the question “Does one design sell better than the other?” Comparing that to the sales in each market would be part of a causal research study. 9

The final method of collecting data is through an ethnographic design. Ethnographic research is conducted in the field by watching people interact in their natural environment. For marketing research, ethnographic designs help to identify how a product is used, what actions are included in a selection, or how the consumer interacts with the product. 10

Examples of ethnographic research would be to observe how a consumer uses a particular product, such as baking soda. Although many people buy baking soda, its uses are vast. So are they using it as a refrigerator deodorizer, a toothpaste, to polish a belt buckle, or to use in baking a cake?

Select the Data Collection Method

Data collection is the systematic gathering of information that addresses the identified problem. What is the best method to do that? Picking the right method of collecting data requires that the researcher understand the target population and the design picked in the previous step. There is no perfect method; each method has both advantages and disadvantages, so it’s essential that the researcher understand the target population of the research and the research objectives in order to pick the best option.

Sometimes the data desired is best collected by watching the actions of consumers. For instance, how many cars pass a specific billboard in a day? What website led a potential customer to the company’s website? When are consumers most likely to use the snack vending machines at work? What time of day has the highest traffic on a social media post? What is the most streamed television program this week? Observational research is the collecting of data based on actions taken by those observed. Many data observations do not require the researched individuals to participate in the data collection effort to be highly valuable. Some observation requires an individual to watch and record the activities of the target population through personal observations .

Unobtrusive observation happens when those being observed aren’t aware that they are being watched. An example of an unobtrusive observation would be to watch how shoppers interact with a new stuffed animal display by using a one-way mirror. Marketers can identify which products were handled more often while also determining which were ignored.

Other methods can use technology to collect the data instead. Instances of mechanical observation include the use of vehicle recorders, which count the number of vehicles that pass a specific location. Computers can also assess the number of shoppers who enter a store, the most popular entry point for train station commuters, or the peak time for cars to park in a parking garage.

When you want to get a more in-depth response from research participants, one method is to complete a one-on-one interview . One-on-one interviews allow the researcher to ask specific questions that match the respondent’s unique perspective as well as follow-up questions that piggyback on responses already completed. An interview allows the researcher to have a deeper understanding of the needs of the respondent, which is another strength of this type of data collection. The downside of personal interviews it that a discussion can be very time-consuming and results in only one respondent’s answers. Therefore, in order to get a large sample of respondents, the interview method may not be the most efficient method.

Taking the benefits of an interview and applying them to a small group of people is the design of a focus group . A focus group is a small number of people, usually 8 to 12, who meet the sample requirements. These individuals together are asked a series of questions where they are encouraged to build upon each other’s responses, either by agreeing or disagreeing with the other group members. Focus groups are similar to interviews in that they allow the researcher, through a moderator, to get more detailed information from a small group of potential customers (see Figure 6.5 ).

Link to Learning

Focus groups.

Focus groups are a common method for gathering insights into consumer thinking and habits. Companies will use this information to develop or shift their initiatives. The best way to understand a focus group is to watch a few examples or explanations. TED-Ed has this video that explains how focus groups work.

You might be asking when it is best to use a focus group or a survey. Learn the differences, the pros and cons of each, and the specific types of questions you ask in both situations in this article .

Preparing for a focus group is critical to success. It requires knowing the material and questions while also managing the group of people. Watch this video to learn more about how to prepare for a focus group and the types of things to be aware of.

One of the benefits of a focus group over individual interviews is that synergy can be generated when a participant builds on another’s ideas. Additionally, for the same amount of time, a researcher can hear from multiple respondents instead of just one. 11 Of course, as with every method of data collection, there are downsides to a focus group as well. Focus groups have the potential to be overwhelmed by one or two aggressive personalities, and the format can discourage more reserved individuals from speaking up. Finally, like interviews, the responses in a focus group are qualitative in nature and are difficult to distill into an easy statistic or two.

A group of five people sit around a table in a conference room. A sixth person is standing at the front of the room, next to a whiteboard with writing on it.

Combining a variety of questions on one instrument is called a survey or questionnaire . Collecting primary data is commonly done through surveys due to their versatility. A survey allows the researcher to ask the same set of questions of a large group of respondents. Response rates of surveys are calculated by dividing the number of surveys completed by the total number attempted. Surveys are flexible and can collect a variety of quantitative and qualitative data. Questions can include simplified yes or no questions, select all that apply, questions that are on a scale, or a variety of open-ended types of questions. There are four types of surveys (see Table 6.2 ) we will cover, each with strengths and weaknesses defined.

Let’s start off with mailed surveys —surveys that are sent to potential respondents through a mail service. Mailed surveys used to be more commonly used due to the ability to reach every household. In some instances, a mailed survey is still the best way to collect data. For example, every 10 years the United States conducts a census of its population (see Figure 6.6 ). The first step in that data collection is to send every household a survey through the US Postal Service (USPS). The benefit is that respondents can complete and return the survey at their convenience. The downside of mailed surveys are expense and timeliness of responses. A mailed survey requires postage, both when it is sent to the recipient and when it is returned. That, along with the cost of printing, paper, and both sending and return envelopes, adds up quickly. Additionally, physically mailing surveys takes time. One method of reducing cost is to send with bulk-rate postage, but that slows down the delivery of the survey. Also, because of the convenience to the respondent, completed surveys may be returned several weeks after being sent. Finally, some mailed survey data must be manually entered into the analysis software, which can cause delays or issues due to entry errors.

The beginning of a United States census form says: Shape your future start here. United States Census 2020. Start questionnaire.

Phone surveys are completed during a phone conversation with the respondent. Although the traditional phone survey requires a data collector to talk with the participant, current technology allows for computer-assisted voice surveys or surveys to be completed by asking the respondent to push a specific button for each potential answer. Phone surveys are time intensive but allow the respondent to ask questions and the surveyor to request additional information or clarification on a question if warranted. Phone surveys require the respondent to complete the survey simultaneously with the collector, which is a limitation as there are restrictions for when phone calls are allowed. According to Telephone Consumer Protection Act , approved by Congress in 1991, no calls can be made prior to 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. in the recipient’s time zone. 12 Many restrictions are outlined in this original legislation and have been added to since due to ever-changing technology.

In-person surveys are when the respondent and data collector are physically in the same location. In-person surveys allow the respondent to share specific information, ask questions of the surveyor, and follow up on previous answers. Surveys collected through this method can take place in a variety of ways: through door-to-door collection, in a public location, or at a person’s workplace. Although in-person surveys are time intensive and require more labor to collect data than some other methods, in some cases it’s the best way to collect the required data. In-person surveys conducted through a door-to-door method is the follow-up used for the census if respondents do not complete the mailed survey. One of the downsides of in-person surveys is the reluctance of potential respondents to stop their current activity and answer questions. Furthermore, people may not feel comfortable sharing private or personal information during a face-to-face conversation.

Electronic surveys are sent or collected through digital means and is an opportunity that can be added to any of the above methods as well as some new delivery options. Surveys can be sent through email, and respondents can either reply to the email or open a hyperlink to an online survey (see Figure 6.7 ). Additionally, a letter can be mailed that asks members of the survey sample to log in to a website rather than to return a mailed response. Many marketers now use links, QR codes, or electronic devices to easily connect to a survey. Digitally collected data has the benefit of being less time intensive and is often a more economical way to gather and input responses than more manual methods. A survey that could take months to collect through the mail can be completed within a week through digital means.

An example of a survey has the board game café logo in the top left corner of the page. There are three questions shown. Question 4 is a multiple choice question: Do you enjoy playing board games? The answer choices are yes, no, and prefer not to answer. Question 5 is an open-ended question: What is your favorite board game? There is a blank to write in an answer after the question. Question 6 is a multiple choice question: Would you be interested in using a daily one-time fee, pass to use the “library” (which includes board games) at the Board Game Cafe? The answer choices are very interested, interested, somewhat interested, not interested, or prefer not to respond.

Design the Sample

Although you might want to include every possible person who matches your target market in your research, it’s often not a feasible option, nor is it of value. If you did decide to include everyone, you would be completing a census of the population. Getting everyone to participate would be time-consuming and highly expensive, so instead marketers use a sample , whereby a portion of the whole is included in the research. It’s similar to the samples you might receive at the grocery store or ice cream shop; it isn’t a full serving, but it does give you a good taste of what the whole would be like.

So how do you know who should be included in the sample? Researchers identify parameters for their studies, called sample frames . A sample frame for one study may be college students who live on campus; for another study, it may be retired people in Dallas, Texas, or small-business owners who have fewer than 10 employees. The individual entities within the sampling frame would be considered a sampling unit . A sampling unit is each individual respondent that would be considered as matching the sample frame established by the research. If a researcher wants businesses to participate in a study, then businesses would be the sampling unit in that case.

The number of sampling units included in the research is the sample size . Many calculations can be conducted to indicate what the correct size of the sample should be. Issues to consider are the size of the population, the confidence level that the data represents the entire population, the ease of accessing the units in the frame, and the budget allocated for the research.

There are two main categories of samples: probability and nonprobability (see Figure 6.8 ). Probability samples are those in which every member of the sample has an identified likelihood of being selected. Several probability sample methods can be utilized. One probability sampling technique is called a simple random sample , where not only does every person have an identified likelihood of being selected to be in the sample, but every person also has an equal chance of exclusion. An example of a simple random sample would be to put the names of all members of a group into a hat and simply draw out a specific number to be included. You could say a raffle would be a good example of a simple random sample.

Examples of probability samples and nonprobability samples are shown. Examples of probability samples are simple random sample and stratified random sample. Examples of nonprobability samples are convenience sample and judgment sample.

Another probability sample type is a stratified random sample , where the population is divided into groups by category and then a random sample of each category is selected to participate. For instance, if you were conducting a study of college students from your school and wanted to make sure you had all grade levels included, you might take the names of all students and split them into different groups by grade level—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Then, from those categories, you would draw names out of each of the pools, or strata.

A nonprobability sample is a situation in which each potential member of the sample has an unknown likelihood of being selected in the sample. Research findings that are from a nonprobability sample cannot be applied beyond the sample. Several examples of nonprobability sampling are available to researchers and include two that we will look at more closely: convenience sampling and judgment sampling.

The first nonprobability sampling technique is a convenience sample . Just like it sounds, a convenience sample is when the researcher finds a group through a nonscientific method by picking potential research participants in a convenient manner. An example might be to ask other students in a class you are taking to complete a survey that you are doing for a class assignment or passing out surveys at a basketball game or theater performance.

A judgment sample is a type of nonprobability sample that allows the researcher to determine if they believe the individual meets the criteria set for the sample frame to complete the research. For instance, you may be interested in researching mothers, so you sit outside a toy store and ask an individual who is carrying a baby to participate.

Collect the Data

Now that all the plans have been established, the instrument has been created, and the group of participants has been identified, it is time to start collecting data. As explained earlier in this chapter, data collection is the process of gathering information from a variety of sources that will satisfy the research objectives defined in step one. Data collection can be as simple as sending out an email with a survey link enclosed or as complex as an experiment with hundreds of consumers. The method of collection directly influences the length of this process. Conducting personal interviews or completing an experiment, as previously mentioned, can add weeks or months to the research process, whereas sending out an electronic survey may allow a researcher to collect the necessary data in a few days. 13

Analyze and Interpret the Data

Once the data has been collected, the process of analyzing it may begin. Data analysis is the distillation of the information into a more understandable and actionable format. The analysis itself can take many forms, from the use of basic statistics to a more comprehensive data visualization process. First, let’s discuss some basic statistics that can be used to represent data.

The first is the mean of quantitative data. A mean is often defined as the arithmetic average of values. The formula is:

A common use of the mean calculation is with exam scores. Say, for example, you have earned the following scores on your marketing exams: 72, 85, 68, and 77. To find the mean, you would add up the four scores for a total of 302. Then, in order to generate a mean, that number needs to be divided by the number of exam scores included, which is 4. The mean would be 302 divided by 4, for a mean test score of 75.5. Understanding the mean can help to determine, with one number, the weight of a particular value.

Another commonly used statistic is median. The median is often referred to as the middle number. To generate a median, all the numeric answers are placed in order, and the middle number is the median. Median is a common statistic when identifying the income level of a specific geographic region. 14 For instance, the median household income for Albuquerque, New Mexico, between 2015 and 2019 was $52,911. 15 In this case, there are just as many people with an income above the amount as there are below.

Mode is another statistic that is used to represent data of all types, as it can be used with quantitative or qualitative data and represents the most frequent answer. Eye color, hair color, and vehicle color can all be presented with a mode statistic. Additionally, some researchers expand on the concept of mode and present the frequency of all responses, not just identifying the most common response. Data such as this can easily be presented in a frequency graph, 16 such as the one in Figure 6.9 .

A frequency graph shows how much time college students spend using social media. The title of the graph is Social Media Use of College Students. The Y axis shows percentages from 0% to 60% in increments of 10%. The x axis shows the amount of time college students use social media. The labels are less than an hour; 1 to 2 hours; 3 to 4 hours; 5 plus hours, and do not use social media. 3.5% of college students use social media for less than an hour; 20.28% of college students use social media between 1 to 2 hours; 51.05% of college students us social media between 3 to 4 hours; 24.48% of students use social media for more than 5 hours. 0.69% of students do not use social media.

Additionally, researchers use other analyses to represent the data rather than to present the entirety of each response. For example, maybe the relationship between two values is important to understand. In this case, the researcher may share the data as a cross tabulation (see Figure 6.10 ). Below is the same data as above regarding social media use cross tabulated with gender—as you can see, the data is more descriptive when you can distinguish between the gender identifiers and how much time is spent per day on social media.

A frequency graph shows how much time college students spend using social media. The title of the graph is Social Media Use by Gender. The Y axis shows percentages from 0% to 60% in increments of 10%. The x axis shows the amount of time college students use social media. The labels are less than an hour; 1 to 2 hours; 3 to 4 hours; 5 plus hours, and do not use social media. The graph divides users into male, female, and non-binary. 5.2% of males and 4.5% of females use social media for less than an hour. 24.6% of males and 16.2% of females us social media between 1 and 2 hours. 57.1% of males, 48.6 of females, and 50.0% of non binary people use social media for 3 to 4 hours. 13% of males, 28.8% of females, and 50% of nonbinary people use social media for more than 5 hours. 1.8% of females do not use social media.

Not all data can be presented in a graphical format due to the nature of the information. Sometimes with qualitative methods of data collection, the responses cannot be distilled into a simple statistic or graph. In that case, the use of quotations, otherwise known as verbatims , can be used. These are direct statements presented by the respondents. Often you will see a verbatim statement when reading a movie or book review. The critic’s statements are used in part or in whole to represent their feelings about the newly released item.


As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. For this reason, research results are often shown in a graphical format in which data can be taken in quickly, called an infographic .

Check out this infographic on what components make for a good infographic. As you can see, a good infographic needs four components: data, design, a story, and the ability to share it with others. Without all four pieces, it is not as valuable a resource as it could be. The ultimate infographic is represented as the intersection of all four.

Infographics are particularly advantageous online. Refer to this infographic on why they are beneficial to use online .

Prepare the Research Report

The marketing research process concludes by sharing the generated data and makes recommendations for future actions. What starts as simple data must be interpreted into an analysis. All information gathered should be conveyed in order to make decisions for future marketing actions. One item that is often part of the final step is to discuss areas that may have been missed with the current project or any area of further study identified while completing it. Without the final step of the marketing research project, the first six steps are without value. It is only after the information is shared, through a formal presentation or report, that those recommendations can be implemented and improvements made. The first six steps are used to generate information, while the last is to initiate action. During this last step is also when an evaluation of the process is conducted. If this research were to be completed again, how would we do it differently? Did the right questions get answered with the survey questions posed to the respondents? Follow-up on some of these key questions can lead to additional research, a different study, or further analysis of data collected.

Methods of Quantifying Marketing Research

One of the ways of sharing information gained through marketing research is to quantify the research . Quantifying the research means to take a variety of data and compile into a quantity that is more easily understood. This is a simple process if you want to know how many people attended a basketball game, but if you want to quantify the number of students who made a positive comment on a questionnaire, it can be a little more complicated. Researchers have a variety of methods to collect and then share these different scores. Below are some of the most common types used in business.

Is a customer aware of a product, brand, or company? What is meant by awareness? Awareness in the context of marketing research is when a consumer is familiar with the product, brand, or company. It does not assume that the consumer has tried the product or has purchased it. Consumers are just aware. That is a measure that many businesses find valuable. There are several ways to measure awareness. For instance, the first type of awareness is unaided awareness . This type of awareness is when no prompts for a product, brand, or company are given. If you were collecting information on fast-food restaurants, you might ask a respondent to list all the fast-food restaurants that serve a chicken sandwich. Aided awareness would be providing a list of products, brands, or companies and the respondent selects from the list. For instance, if you give a respondent a list of fast-food restaurants and ask them to mark all the locations with a chicken sandwich, you are collecting data through an aided method. Collecting these answers helps a company determine how the business location compares to those of its competitors. 17

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Have you ever been asked to complete a survey at the end of a purchase? Many businesses complete research on buying, returning, or other customer service processes. A customer satisfaction score , also known as CSAT, is a measure of how satisfied customers are with the product, brand, or service. A CSAT score is usually on a scale of 0 to 100 percent. 18 But what constitutes a “good” CSAT score? Although what is identified as good can vary by industry, normally anything in the range from 75 to 85 would be considered good. Of course, a number higher than 85 would be considered exceptional. 19

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Effort Score (CES)

Other metrics often used are a customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer effort score (CES). How much does it cost a company to gain customers? That’s the purpose of calculating the customer acquisition cost. To calculate the customer acquisition cost , a company would need to total all expenses that were accrued to gain new customers. This would include any advertising, public relations, social media postings, etc. When a total cost is determined, it is divided by the number of new customers gained through this campaign.

The final score to discuss is the customer effort score , also known as a CES. The CES is a “survey used to measure the ease of service experience with an organization.” 20 Companies that are easy to work with have a better CES than a company that is notorious for being difficult. An example would be to ask a consumer about the ease of making a purchase online by incorporating a one-question survey after a purchase is confirmed. If a number of responses come back negative or slightly negative, the company will realize that it needs to investigate and develop a more user-friendly process.

Knowledge Check

It’s time to check your knowledge on the concepts presented in this section. Refer to the Answer Key at the end of the book for feedback.

  • Defining the problem
  • Developing the research plan
  • Selecting a data collection method
  • Designing the sample
  • you are able to send it to all households in an area
  • it is inexpensive
  • responses are automatically loaded into the software
  • the data comes in quickly
  • Primary data
  • Secondary data
  • Secondary and primary data
  • Professional data
  • It shows how respondents answered two variables in relation to each other and can help determine patterns by different groups of respondents.
  • By presenting the data in the form of a picture, the information is easier for the reader to understand.
  • It is an easy way to see how often one answer is selected by the respondents.
  • This analysis can used to present interview or focus group data.

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  • Publisher/website: OpenStax
  • Book title: Principles of Marketing
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  • Experience Management

Market Research

  • Market Research Templates

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Market research templates: what they are and how to use them.

18 min read Interested in market research but need some templates to start with? In this guide, we unpack market research, survey planning best practice and share some of our best templates for brand, customer, product and employee research.

What is a market research template?

While you’re no doubt familiar with the concept of market research and how it can help you to reach your target audiences and improve your product or service , the real challenge is designing a market research plan that is conducive to excellent results.

All of this starts with the right market research template(s) to help you analyze specific target audiences, collect the right data and uncover insights that can drive actionable change.

In this article, we’re going to:

  • talk about market research and its use cases,
  • provide you with a standard template that allows you to plan your research,
  • and share several other templates to help you with specific types of market research

You can also check out our free template library.

But first, let’s revisit market research.

What is market research?

Market research is the process of determining the viability of a new service or product through surveys and questionnaires with prospects and/or customers. It involves gathering information about market needs and prospect/customer preferences .

Through market research, you can discover and/or refine your target market, get opinions and feedback on what you provide to them and uncover further prospect/customer pain points and expectations of your service or product .

Market research can be conducted in-house, either by you and your research team, or through a third-party company that specializes in it (they will typically have their own research panels or be capable of creating a research panel to suit your requirements).

The four common types of market research

There are lots of different ways to conduct market research to collect customer data and feedback , test product concepts , and do brand research, but the four most common are:

The most commonly used form of market research, surveys are a form of qualitative research that asks respondents a series of open or closed-ended questions , delivered either as an on-screen questionnaire or email.

Surveys are incredibly popular because they’re cheap, easy to produce, and can capture data very quickly, leading to faster insights.

2) Focus groups

Why not bring together a carefully selected group of people in your target market using focus groups? Though more expensive and complex than surveys and interviews, focus groups can offer deeper insight into prospect and customer behavior – from how users experience your products and services to what marketing messages really resonate with them.

Of course, as a market research method that’s reliant on a moderator to steer conversation, it can be subject to bias (as different moderators might have preferred questions or be more forceful) and if you cut corners (not asking all the necessary questions or making assumptions based on responses), the data could get skewed.

3) Observation

As if you were a fly-on-the-wall, the observation market research method can be incredibly powerful. Rather than interviewing or surveying users, you simply take notes while someone from your target market/target audience engages with your product . How are they using it? What are they struggling with? Do they look as though they have concerns?

Observing your target audience/target market in this fashion is a great alternative to the other more traditional methods on this list. It’s less expensive and far more natural as it isn’t guided by a moderator or a predefined set of questions. The only issue is that you can’t get feedback directly from the mouth of the user, so it’s worth combining this type of research with interviews, surveys, and/or focus groups.

4) Interviews

Interviews allow for face-to-face discussions (both in-person and virtually), allowing for more natural conversations with participants.

For gleaning deeper insights (especially with non-verbal cues giving greater weight to opinions), there’s nothing better than face-to-face interviews. Any kind of interview will provide excellent information, helping you to better understand your prospects and target audience/target market.

Use cases for market research

When you want to understand your prospects and/or customers, but have no existing data to set a benchmark – or want to improve your products and services quickly – market research is often the go-to.

Market research (as mentioned above), helps you to discover how prospects and customers feel about your products and services, as well as what they would like to see .

But there are more use cases and benefits to market research than the above.

Reduce risk of product and business failure

With any new venture, there’s no guarantee that the new idea will be successful. As such, it’s up to you to establish the market’s appetite for your product or service. The easiest way to do this is through market research – you can understand the challenges prospects face and quickly identify where you can help. With the data from your market survey, you can then create a solution that addresses the needs and expectations of would-be customers.

Forecast future trends

Market research doesn’t just help you to understand the current market – it also helps you to forecast future needs. As you conduct your research and analyze the findings, you can identify trends – for example, how brands and businesses are adopting new technology to improve customer experiences or how sustainability is becoming a core focus for packaging. Whatever it is you’re looking to understand about the future of business in your market, comprehensive market research can help you to identify it.

Stay ahead of the competition

Understanding your market and what prospects and customers want from you will help to keep you ahead of the competition . The fact is that the top businesses frequently invest in market research to get an edge, and those that don’t tap into the insights of their audience are missing low-hanging fruit.

As well as helping you to stay in front, you can also use market research to identify gaps in the market, e.g. your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses . Just have participants answer questions about competitor products/services – or even use the products/services – and work out how you can refine your offerings to address these issues.

Plan more strategically

What’s the foundation of your business strategy? If it’s based on evidence, e.g. what people expect of your products and services, it’ll be much easier to deliver something that works. Rather than making assumptions about what you should do, market research gives you a clear, concrete understanding of what people want to see.

Check out our guide to market research for a more comprehensive breakdown.

How do you write a market research plan/template?

A market research plan is very similar to a brief in that it documents the most vital information and steps about your project. Consider it a blueprint that outlines your main objective (summary), key questions and outcomes, target audience and size, your timeline, budget, and other key variables.

Let’s talk about them in more detail.

Elements of a great market research plan

1) overview or summary.

Use the first section of your market research plan to outline the background to the problem that you are attempting to solve (this is usually your problem statement or problem question). Include background information on the study’s purpose and the business to provide context to those who would read the report, as well as the need for the research. Keep the overview simple and concise; focus on the most salient elements.

2) Objectives

What is it that you hope to achieve with this survey? Your objectives are the most important part of the survey. Make sure to list 3-5 of the decisions or initiatives that the research will influence.

For example:

Understand the most-used channels for customer engagement and purchasing to decide where to prioritize marketing and sales budget in Q1 2022. Determine what’s causing customer churn at the later stages of the buyer journey and implement a new retention and sales strategy to address it.

Your objectives should be smart, that is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

3) Deliverables (or outcomes)

This section should focus on what you expect to have at the end of the project. How many responses are you looking for? How will the data be presented? Who will the data be shared with? (Stakeholders, executives) What are your next steps? Make sure you state how you will collect and analyze the data once it’s available.

Products such as Qualtrics CoreXM make this process fast and incredibly easy to do, drastically reducing the time to insights so you can make more meaningful changes, faster.

4) Target audience

Not to be confused with your market research sample, your target audience represents who you want to research. Of course, your sample may include ideal buyers from your target audience. Here you want to define the main variables or factors of your audience: demographic , age, location , product interaction, experience, and so on. It’s worth building out your buyer personas (if you haven’t already) and including a quick breakdown of them here.

5) Sample plan

How many participants do you want to research and what kind of groups do you want to reach? Depending on these two variables, you may have to use qualitative, quantitative , or multi-method approaches.

6) Research methods

What methods will you use in your market research project? The insights (and the granularity of those insights) will depend on the methods and tools you choose. For example, and as mentioned earlier, surveys are often the go-to for many organizations as they’re affordable and straightforward, but if you want to get more personal views from your respondents, one-to-one interviews might be more applicable. You might even want to take a hands-off approach and simply observe participants as they use your products, or try a combination of research methods. Make sure to outline what methods you will use as part of your research plan.

7) Timeline

How long will your research project run? It’s worth putting together a Gantt chart to highlight key milestones in the project, along with dependencies, and to break down tasks as much as possible. Schedule in contingency time in case some tasks or research runs over – or you need more responses.

Set a budget for the overall program and list it in your plan. Though this might be the most difficult aspect of any research plan, it helps you to be more strategic about tasks and hold people accountable at each stage of the process. If costs go over, that’s good to know for future market research. If costs are lower than anticipated, you then have the opportunity to do further research or prop up other areas of the study.

9) Ethical concerns or conflicts of interest

One of the most important parts of your market research plan, you should highlight any ethical concerns. To begin with, it’s your duty to state whether or not responses will be kept confidential and anonymous as part of the study. It’s also important to allow participants to remain anonymous and ensure you protect their privacy at all times.

Another issue to consider is stereotyping. Any analysis of real populations needs to make approximations and place individuals into groups, but if conducted irresponsibly, stereotyping can lead to undesirable results.

Lastly, conflicts of interest – it may be that researchers have interests in the outcome of the project that lead to a personal advantage that might compromise the integrity of your market research project. You should clearly state in your market research report that any potential conflicts of interest are highlighted and addressed before continuing.

But I want a faster solution!

Well, there’s a quicker and far easier way to do all of the above and get the data you need – just use a market research survey template. In our next section, we’re going to share a whole list of templates that you can use.

Free market research survey templates

No matter what kind of research you want to conduct, we have templates that will remove the complexity of the task and empower you to get more from your data. Below we’ve compiled a list of templates for four key experience areas: Brand , Customer , Employee , and Product .

All of our research templates are free. All you need to do is sign up for a free Qualtrics account to access them.

Brand experience market research templates:

  • Logo testing : Collect feedback to help you evaluate and iterate on your logo designs and concepts
  • Brand awareness : Track the level of brand awareness in your target market, including current and potential future customers
  • Ad testing : Evaluate your consumers’ reaction to an advertisement so you know which campaigns to deploy before you invest
  • A/B testing : Quickly and easily compare to versions or options in a study, whether it’s a design, headline, color palette or a mock-up of your latest ad campaign

Customer experience market research templates

  • Student satisfaction : Gather feedback on how your institution is delivering on the student experience
  • Net promoter score (NPS) : Measure customer loyalty and understand how they feel about your product or service using one of the world’s best-recognized metrics
  • Customer satisfaction : Evaluate how satisfied your customers are with your company, including the products and services you provide, and how they are treated when they buy from you
  • Customer service : Gain insights into the contact center experience, so you can achieve and maintain optimum levels of customer experience (CX) performance
  • Event feedback : Measure the effectiveness of your events and how well they meet attendee expectations so that you can continuously improve your offering
  • IT help desk : Understand how satisfied your employees and customers are with your IT help desk experience
  • Website suggestion box : Collect visitor feedback on how your website can be improved
  • Website satisfaction : Find out how satisfied visitors are with your website’s design, usability, and performance
  • Store purchase feedback : Capture customer experience data at the point of purchase to help you improve the in-store experience
  • Online purchase feedback : Find out how well your online shopping experience performs against customer needs and expectations

Employee experience market research templates

  • Employee satisfaction : Get an overview of your current employee experience
  • Manager feedback : Improve your skills as a leader with valuable feedback from your team
  • Employee engagement : Find out how employees find the current experience at your workplace with this entry-level engagement survey
  • Employee exit interview : Understand why your employees are leaving and how they’ll speak about your company once they’re gone with this survey template
  • Employee onboarding : Improve your onboarding program by understanding what’s working and what’s not
  • Team event planning : Collect inputs from employees to plan a team event that works for everyone
  • Meeting feedback : Check-in with team members after a meeting to see how well your company is running and what improvements can be made
  • Interview feedback : Improve your candidate experience by gathering actionable insights about the interview process
  • Employee suggestion box : Gather anonymous data to help address concerns and improve the employee experience in your organization
  • Candidate experience : Improve your candidate experience to increase brand perception, offer acceptance rates, and hiring process efficiency with this single-touchpoint survey template
  • Employee suggestion action : Take employee feedback a step further by working with your staff to quantify solutions based on their experience data

Product experience market research templates

  • Product research : Evaluate your consumers’ reaction to a new product or product feature across every stage of the product development journey
  • Pricing : Understand how to set the exact price point for your product or service, according to your target consumers
  • Feature prioritization : Compare and contrast product features using conjoint analysis to find the optimal mix for your customers
  • Product package testing : Collect feedback on your product packaging to see how well it meets the needs and expectations of your customers

Armed with the right market research templates, getting the information you need across brand, product, customer and employee disciplines — as well as beyond — is significantly easier.

But if you want help putting together complex market research and scaling your in-house research team to get agile insights, check out our guide to building an agile research function.

Insights are more important than ever, especially during times of change, but building a great team takes a lot of time and money.

In our eBook, we’ll explain how you can:

  • Scale your research team
  • Build a smart partner strategy
  • Ensure you have the right technology for market research and data analysis

Tackle your market research with our agile market research eBook

Related resources

Market intelligence 10 min read, marketing insights 11 min read, ethnographic research 11 min read, qualitative vs quantitative research 13 min read, qualitative research questions 11 min read, qualitative research design 12 min read, primary vs secondary research 14 min read, request demo.

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Market penetration definition

How to calculate market penetration, market penetration explained, what is a market penetration strategy, how to create a market penetration strategy, market penetration strategy examples, connect market penetration to your overall business strategy, how to create a market penetration strategy — 2023 guide.

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8 min. read

Updated October 29, 2023

If you’re  looking to start  or expand your business, you need to have a firm understanding of how to enter and grow within your chosen market. This requires you to take what you’ve learned during your market analysis to develop a market penetration strategy for your business. So, what exactly is a market penetration strategy and how do you develop one?

Market penetration is the amount that your business is able to sell a product or service to customers compared to the estimated  total available market  (TAM). This is a measurement that can help you define the serviceable available market (SAM), which is the portion you estimate that you can acquire. Additionally, it can serve as a baseline for developing a strategy to increase your service obtainable market (SOM), or the subset of customers that you can realistically acquire.

Market penetration is both a measurement and an activity. You can actively engage in market penetration, which is your attempt to enter or expand into a given market. The actual measurement is a specific assessment regarding how much you anticipate selling or actually do sell as a percentage of the total available market. You can find this measurement using the following equation:

Market penetration rate = (Number of customers / target market size) x 100

While the action and measurement may seem like two separate activities, you can actually leverage your market penetration measurement to develop a market penetration strategy. While it may not be exact, since it’s based on market size estimations, it can still provide you with a legitimate  number to measure  your actual results. 

Think of it as a baseline for what’s feasible and what your penetration rate needs to be for your business to be viable long-term. Keeping track of this measurement and noting any positive or negative changes can help inform your return on investment for any marketing or sales campaigns. To stay up-to-date, it’s best to review this measurement before and after a campaign to gauge performance. You can also add it into your  monthly plan review sessions  if you’re actively running campaigns without a distinct end date.

To truly take advantage of knowing your market penetration rate, you need to understand what that rate means for your business within the market. How does your current standing affect brand perception? How do you  compare to your competitors ? Is there any room for growth? Any threat of new entrants?

In general, you want your market penetration to be high. The higher your market penetration the more likely that you have some or all of the following market advantages:

  • You’re an industry or market leader
  • You’re well-established in your industry
  • You can leverage economies of scale
  • You have a stronger pricing position
  • Brand awareness for your business is high
  • You have well-established distribution channels and vendor relationships

You don’t necessarily need to have the greatest market penetration for your business to be viable. In fact, when you’re just starting out you’ll likely be starting with a minor portion of the market. So how do you  grow your business  and achieve greater market penetration? By using your research to develop a market penetration strategy.

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A market penetration strategy is a product market strategy whereby an organization seeks to gain greater dominance in a market in which it already has an offering. A subset of this strategy often focuses on capturing a larger share of an existing market through a process known as market development. 

Market development involves the actionable steps you intend to take to expand your attainable market. However, instead of working with customers in your current market, you instead focus on obtaining an underserved, non-buying, or new portion of the market. 

For example, let’s say that you’re a  SaaS company  focused on enterprise-level business email management. It’s a highly competitive space, with well-established brands and similar feature sets, where customer service, pricing, and ease of use are primary advantages. As a new entrant, or established business looking to grow, instead of attempting to claim current enterprise customers from your competitors, you can develop another market segment.

You may see an opportunity to provide a lighter version of your software to smaller businesses. Or by focusing on your collaboration toolset, you can pitch the software to single accounting firms with the intent of rolling it out to the broader chain. Doing this grows your current customer base, expands the available market, and simultaneously improves your brand equity within the enterprise email management market.

Now, market development isn’t always possible, meaning that you’ll need to still focus on growing your business by acquiring customers already served in a given market. One of the best ways to start developing your market penetration strategy is using the Ansoff Matrix. This tool highlights the possible paths you can take to pursue growth. 

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Typically, product development and diversification are the more costly and riskier options, while market development and market penetration are considered to be lighter risk strategies. More than likely, you’ll be leveraging multiple growth strategies within your broader market penetration strategy. But, the path you take does again depend on your current market penetration, competitor positioning, as well as market expectations. 

To make sure you’re prepared to evaluate and execute different strategies, start with a  market analysis  and your penetration rate before working with the Ansoff Matrix. Then start to explore the different market penetration strategies available to you.

As you conduct your market analysis and begin to map out specific steps, here are a few market penetration strategy examples you can try to implement.

Price adjustments

If you’re struggling to move products or services, it may be wise to lower or increase your pricing. This can set your business apart from competitors by either presenting yourself as a low-cost alternative or premium option. You can also explore expanding your  pricing options , creating different levels for specific customer needs that lock unique features or support behind higher tiers.

Keep in mind that any pricing adjustments may also require a certain level of product development, especially if you pursue the premium route.

Launch a new product or service

If you’re considering launching a new product or service, be sure that there is a need for it. Treat this new launch like you’re restarting your business. Interview customers,  conduct market research , forecast sales and expenses, and be sure that a new product is viable for your business. 

As said before, this may stem from your pricing adjustment strategy. If this product or service is similar to your current offerings, be sure that you cleanly separate it with pricing and messaging. If it’s a complimentary product, try to find ways to cross-promote, and improve the lifetime value of current customers.

Adjust your current products

Another option is to simply change or update your current products or services. Start by defining specific  niche segments  within your target market to help define what changes are necessary. This can be a new feature, less expensive components, or unique variants, among other things. 

The key here is to focus on improving economies of scale by leveraging the core components of something that you already sell. 

Partner with or acquire other businesses

Sometimes the market is too competitive to make any real traction. Maybe one business is so large and well-established, that minor or emerging competitors simply cannot strengthen their foothold due to current resources and the smaller customer pool available to them. In this case, it may be wise to partner up or acquire a competitor to unify your customer base and resources. 

This is also an effective strategy when entering a new market. Instead of working from the ground up, your brand will immediately become associated with a business that has a well-established presence. 

Adjust your marketing campaigns

In some cases, you may not need to make such drastic changes to your strategy. Instead, you can always focus on optimizing your current marketing spend. This may be as light as adjusting your messaging within advertisements or offering different incentives. Or something as large as relaunching  marketing campaigns  or creating a loyalty program. 

In any case, this requires you to look closely at  your target audience  and how your competitors position themselves. Is there a pain point no one is addressing? Is your copy and imagery not presenting your mission or value proposition effectively? Or maybe you just aren’t spending enough on the right marketing channels. 

In any case, look at your current return on investment for marketing activities and identify any areas that require optimization. From there, begin to test and layout different strategies, potentially around some of the pricing or feature adjustments we already covered. Continue to look at performance over time and be ready to make gradual adjustments if something isn’t working.

Keep in mind that market penetration should not be conducted in a bubble. Any strategies you develop or steps you take should connect to your broader business strategy and help you reach specific  milestones . One way to keep this top of mind is to incorporate a review of your market penetration rate and any ongoing strategies into your monthly plan review. 

This will encourage you to look at  financial forecasts , milestones, and current tactics all at once. If you find that a current penetration strategy doesn’t support your larger goals, it may be wise to back off or reallocate resources until it becomes relevant. Or, it may present an opportunity to adjust your business plan to fit the opportunity you’ve found. But without reviewing it alongside your plan and financials, you’d never know for sure. 

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Content Author: Kody Wirth

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  • Measuring marketing performance (17%)
  • Proving marketing’s value to leadership (14%)
  • Despite expected challenges from implementing AI into marketing/communications programs:

    • 79% plan to invest in AI in 2024
    • 60% of those investing in AI plan to allocate more than 10% of their marketing budget

    Of those already using AI, the most used tools are:

    • ChatGPT (48%)
    • Grammarly (19%)
    • Brandwatch (13%)
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    • (5%)

    The top three areas where marketing/communications programs using AI are seeing the greatest benefits are:

    • Content development/ideation (26%)
    • Programmatic advertising and media buying (21%)
    • Predictive analytics for customer insights (19%)

    Research Methodology

    The Matter Marketing/Communications Outlook Survey was fielded by a third-party provider on October 5, 2023. The online survey research collected responses from 270 U.S. CMOs and marketing decision-makers across B2B technology, professional services, healthcare, consumer, and food and beverage industries.

    With 250+ professionals across offices in Boston and Newburyport, MA, Rochester, NY, Providence, RI, Dallas, TX, and Denver, CO, Matter is one of the fastest-growing PR, marketing and creative firms in the country. Matter has won 14 “Agency of the Year” accolades and has been consistently recognized as a top place to work .

    About Matter Communications

    Matter is a Brand Elevation Agency that integrates PR, marketing and creative services into campaigns that inspire action and build value. Founded in 2003, with offices spanning North America, Matter works with the world’s most innovative companies across healthcare, high-technology, consumer technology and consumer markets. For more information, visit

    Matter Greg Amaral [email protected]

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    Release Summary

    Matter's 2024 Marketing Outlook Survey reveals CMOs' plans to increase budgets, incorporate AI tools and build their brands next year.

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    Join market research and product marketing guru Sandy DeWald and branding and strategic communications specialist Dev Nicholas for this primer on 2024 marketing trends. Together, these veteran SCORE subject matter experts will take you step-by-step through strategies to help you create a solid products/services foundation, identify your target customer, and set yourself up for success communicating with them. From how to properly define a target audience, where to find them, and develop a unique value proposition, to creating a content strategy, personalizing an approach, and leveraging new technologies like AI, this session has you covered. Start your 2024 planning with us!

    **IMPORTANT INFORMATION: NO Registration after 11/29/2023 at 11:59 pm.**

    Any workshop materials will be sent within 48 hours following the event.

    Registered attendees will be notified of any changes or cancellations.

    Instructors: Dev Nicholas and Sandy DeWald

    Devonie (Dev) Nicholas is a senior level communications and strategic branding leader with more than 14 years of experience. Most recently, her experience has included marketing, relationship management and strategic service to the culinary, hospitality and heavy civil construction industries. She served 11+ years as the Public Relations & Marketing Director for the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFFc), and concurrently as Public Relations Director for the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF).

    Dev’s background includes leadership of marketing, design and public relations teams, as well as direct management of executive communications programs, strategic partnerships, copywriting, and brand strategy covering lifestyle, entertainment, food, beverage, non-profit and travel/tourism verticals. She has vast experience with talent relations and community affairs, as well as crisis communications and governmental relations.

    Born in Michigan, she received her Master of Arts in Public Relations from the University of Miami, and Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and Political Science from Florida State University. Dev volunteers as a subject matter expert in branding, marketing and communications for the small business mentorship organization SCORE Nashville, a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), former member of Les Dames d’Escoffier Miami and was named one of South Florida’s top 50 most influential figures in food in 2016. She spent 12 years in Miami, FL before relocating to Nashville, TN in 2018 with her beloved Shiba Inu, Guinness.

    Sandy DeWald is an expert in bringing new products to market. With 20 years of experience in the manufacturing industry, she has developed and launched hundreds of new products into multiple market segments. Key areas of expertise involve the entire lifecycle of new product development including market research and idea validation; developing product specifications, features and benefits; and effectively launching new products into the market. She loves collaborating with others on the “messy front end” to figure out if this is the right product, at the right price, for the right person. She brings those skills and insights into the classroom as an instructor by helping attendees clarify, validate and define their business ideas. As a lifelong learner, she has a BS in English/Biology from the University of South Carolina and an MBA from Union University and is excited to share what she’s learned in both the academic and real-world business settings to help new entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life.

    Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association,

    Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.


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    The stock market still looks overvalued even as the 'everything bubble' deflates, research firm says

    • The "everything bubble" of 2021 has deflated, but stocks still look overvalued, according to Ned Davis Research.
    • Meanwhile, bonds have approached fair value after a 50% decline spurred by high interest rates.
    • These are the valuation metrics that tell NDR stocks are still too high.

    Insider Today

    The "everything bubble" of 2021 has finally deflated after a surge in interest rates sparked losses across the bond and stock markets.

    But while bonds have reached "fair value" territory after a 50% crash, stocks still appeared overvalued, according to a recent note from Ned Davis Research.

    Of course, stocks don't look as overvalued as they did two years ago when SPACs, NFTs, and meme-stocks were catching fire with investors. But they're still priced at extremes that suggest future returns could be underwhelming for investors.

    The 2022 bear market, which sparked a more than 20% decline in the S&P 500, helped rein in valuations. And last week, the S&P 500 entered correction territory.

    But NDR still isn't confident that equities currently represent a good deal for investors.

    "Even using my more generous analysis the market was very overvalued in 2021. It is less so now but still in the overvalued zone where stocks have done poorly," Ned Davis of NDR said, pointing to various valuation metrics.

    For one, stocks have outrun the boom in money supply growth, according to the note, pointing to the M2 gauge.

    A "more normal valuation" metric also shows stocks are still overvalued, based on the price-to-earnings ratio of the S&P 500 using five-year earnings. 

    "All three of these charts go back to the 1920s and still show a bubble in stocks," Ned Davis said.

    The stock market also looks overvalued when compared to the hefty returns that bonds are offering.

    "While stocks are not as overvalued as they were in 2021 on an absolute valuation basis, relative to bond yields they are more overvalued," Davis said.

    Finally, Davis pointed out that US households are still overweight stocks, with nearly 40% of households owning stocks, well above the long-term average of 27%. 

    Meanwhile, US households hold underweight allocations in real estate, bonds, and cash, with cash the most underweight relative to 72-year norms.

    These readings suggest that stocks could be the biggest losers if US households get fed up with their exposure to equities and decide to shift their money elsewhere, meaning more room for valuations to fall lower.

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    Leeds Marketing Professor Alix Barasch Receives Prestigious Award from the Association for Consumer Research

    You are here.

    Also honored: CU Distinguished Professor John Lynch received the inaugural Simonson Lifetime Mentorship Award.

    Alix Barasch poses outside

    For the second time since its inception in 2010, the Association for Consumer Research (ACR) has presented a Leeds School of Business professor with the prestigious Early Career Award. Associate Professor Alix Barasch accepted the award, which honors the scholarly contributions of an ACR member who received their PhD between five and eight years ago, on October 28.  

    “It’s an honor to be recognized by ACR and join the impressive list of other scholars who have received the award, including Leeds’ own Phil Fernbach ,” Barasch said. “Since joining Leeds it’s been incredible to have the support of my extraordinary colleagues, including John Lynch, and to celebrate each other’s successes.” Leeds is one of only four schools to receive two Early Career Awards; the others include the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University and UCLA.

    A standout in her field

    Barasch earned her PhD in marketing in 2016 from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She then served as an assistant professor at New York University and as a visiting associate professor at INSEAD before joining the Leeds School in 2022 .

    “Professor Barasch’s research in consumer behavior has been exceptionally impactful with more than 2,200 Google Scholar citations,” said CU Distinguished Professor  John Lynch . “Her work has opened new lines of inquiry, particularly with respect to how technology and sharing affect the enjoyment of taking and sharing photos to capture life experiences on social media platforms.”

    Barasch’s research has been published in various top marketing research journals including Journal of Consumer Research , Journal of Marketing Research and the Journal of Marketing, as well as psychology research journals including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Psychological Science. Her work is regularly featured in global media outlets such as the New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, Washington Post, Fast Company, Wired and NPR. She also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing and Journal of Consumer Psychology.

    The award is not the first received by Barasch for her research impact. Prior to starting her graduate studies, she was selected as a Fulbright Scholar and spent a year teaching at the University of Macau and doing research at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She also was selected as a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar in 2021.

    “It was pretty great to be sitting at Alix Barasch's table as she won the Early Career Award. Her influence in consumer behavior has already been recognized by service appointments to the top journals in her field, and she is extremely deserving of the recognition,” Lynch said. “Alix’s former student Jackie Silverman also picked up an Honorable Mention for the Ferber Award for Outstanding Dissertation based on their article in Journal of Consumer Research.”

    Not only did Lynch celebrate Barasch’s accomplishment, but he himself was honored at ACR’s award ceremony receiving the inaugural Simonson Lifetime Mentorship Award. His impressive career includes serving as the former director of Leeds’ Center for Research on Consumer Financial Decision Making and senior associate dean for Faculty and Research. He was named a University of Colorado Distinguished Professor in 2018 and is a fellow of the American Marketing Association, the Association for Consumer Research and the American Psychological Association/Society for Consumer Psychology—one of only five individuals in the world to be named a fellow of all three organizations.

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