Marketing Analytics: How to Prove Your Hunch
By: Mike Sovak ’18
Marketing is a funny field of study. So much of it is based on the unquantifiable: people’s thoughts, opinions, and feelings towards a brand or product. Yet many marketing majors are asked to complete a small regiment of math and finance courses. For most of my college career, math had little importance to making marketing decisions because for the most part “ballpark” observations were good enough to backup a hunch.
Unfortunately, this was a stressful idea. I was supporting decisions that hypothetically could cost a business a lot of time and resources with “ballpark” numbers? It seemed too inaccurate for an academic field. However, when I took Market Research in the fall of my senior year, everything fell into place.
Market research attempts to do exactly what I suggested was extremely difficult: quantify consumer’s thoughts, opinions, and feelings. It does so through the use of questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, and many other tools all used in conjunction with one another. The end result, when done properly, can lead to extremely accurate data and conclusions about a company’s consumers; and these data can lead to some excellent marketing decisions. Market research can also help you prove a point, or force you to stumble upon a more glaring issue. For example: a marketer may have a hunch that his or her company is struggling due to lack of exposure, and may suggest a more aggressive marketing campaign. However, market research may prove that the issue is not exposure, but that customers are confused about this company’s brand messaging. Had market research not been conducted in this case, a poor judgement would have been made, and company resources would have been sunk into a lost cause.
Needless to say, this type of supporting data is invaluable. The only issue is that it is hard to do well. We spent most of the market research class studying different types of error which can occur throughout the process. Types of error can range from personal bias, to poorly written questionnaires, or even just making an error when documenting findings. Because market research attempts to quantify the impossible, one must be absolutely meticulous throughout all steps or else it can lead to incorrect judgements.
At the end of the market research course, I – along with several other students – were tasked with conducting research for some entity on campus. My group chose to assist the Honors Program in order to find some ways the program may improve. We began the process by conducting focus groups: small groups featuring persons of interest being guided through important questions by a moderator. This gave us a scope of the situation and helped us to identify patterns. Next, we used these patterns to create questions for a questionnaire – this was important so we could get pertinent questions answered without having to visit each person directly. Finally, these findings were coded in order to quantify all of the information we had gathered to be compared. This entire process yielded some actionable patterns which we were able to present on to the class and to the Honors Program itself.
This project functioned exactly like a real market research endeavor a company may put on. We were in a small group that forced collaboration, and our findings created real suggestions for a real entity. The entire process was beneficial to my development as a marketing, and it finally gave me a way to prove my hunch.
Other members of the group felt similarly that this was a project geared towards real employment:
“The final project for the Market Research course here at Mount was a well encompassed project that gave all of us students the opportunity to take a part of campus, whether that be the parking arrangements on campus or the food that was offered. Each group was to take a part of their home away from home and open the conversation with their peers and hear their honest opinions on the topic,” said Emily Bryan ‘18. “This project was engaging as well as educational because working on a deadline, in a group setting, and analyzing data that you have personally collected is the reality that many of us will be facing in a few short months.”
“This project was probably one of my favorite projects in college. We really got to see how the market research process works, and we were able to complete the whole process.” Said Rachel Brumenschenkel ‘18. “The project made me appreciate market research and helped spark my interest in it as a potential career path. I learned that conducting market research is very important because you should base marketing-related decisions on the research in order to be strategic and successful.”