Marketers often cite time as an obstacle to carrying out market research. The other challenge is uncertainty about how to go about it, coupled with an element of complacency that marketers already know exactly what the consumer wants and needs.

“I used to feel that I just didn’t have time. Now we’ve been challenged to slow down a bit and make sure we include research in our process,” says Sue Johnson, head of retail marketing at Flight Centre UK, and one a graduates of Marketing Week’s Mini MBA in Marketing run by Mark Ritson.

“It’s hard to argue with the notion that research isn’t optional,” she says. “How can we possibly do anything else well if we don’t first understand how the customer is thinking and feeling?”

Johnson admits Flight Centre used to make decisions with ‘If I was the customer I would…’ thinking. “It was good to be reminded that I am, as Mark Ritson would put it, an ‘idiot to consumerism’,” she adds.

The market research module has changed the way many students approach marketing, giving them the knowledge to tackle it more confidently. But that’s not to say it’s easy.

Another graduate, Graeme Johnson, founder of marketing agency Great Ape, works predominantly with SME clients, and says that getting businesses to see value in thorough research is often the greatest challenge.

“The research module was great for offering accessible tools, narratives and case studies with which to demonstrate the value of research, as well as outlining the full range of potential approaches and methodologies.”

Qualitative or quantitative?

One of the chief focuses of the module is qualitative and quantitative methods of research, and the pros and cons of each. Ritson cites focus groups as a classic qualitative method, explaining that these can play a valuable role in marketing, allowing marketers to learn from consumers.

But he adds a word of warning: “The problem is that the samples are small and therefore we are never going to be able to calculate the magnitudes or use numbers.”

This is where quantitative methods come in. “Quantitative research allows us to test things, and with representative samples it allows us to measure things and have numbers,” says Ritson.

One of the most popular and valuable quantitative methods is surveys, a tool which the module explores in some detail. Ritson says, “If you ask the right questions you have all kinds of wonderful opportunities to analyse the market. We can slice the data by various different…