Marketing research is a process that investigates both organizations and people. Of course, organizations are made up of people so when it comes down to it, marketing research is a branch of the social sciences. Social science studies people and their relationships and includes such areas as economics, sociology and psychology. To gain understanding into their fields, researchers in the social sciences use scientific methods that have been tested and refined over hundreds of years. Many of these methods require the institution of tight controls on research projects. For instance, many companies survey (i.e., ask questions) a small percentage of their customers (called a sample) to see how satisfied they are with the company’s efforts. For the information obtained from a small group of customers to be useful when evaluating how all customers feel, certain controls must be in place including controls on who should be included in the sample.
Thus, doing research right means the necessary controls are in place to insure it is done correctly and increase the chance the results are relevant. Relying on results of research conducted incorrectly to make decisions could prove problematic if not disastrous. Thousands of examples exist of firms using faulty research to make decisions, including many dot-com companies that failed between 1999 and 2002.
As one might expect, the trade-off for doing research right is the increase in cost and time needed to conduct the research. So a big decision for marketers, when it comes to doing research, is to determine the balance between the need for obtaining relevant information and the costs involved in carrying out the research.