a research brief
7: Selecting and researching potential countries/markets
abroad > Preparing a research brief
No market researcher
can study everything about a particular market in depth -
the researcher must be selective. He or she needs to decide on
which aspects and in what depth of a market to investigate. There is clearly
a need for a set of guidelines or plan of action - referred to as a research brief - that will guide what research you will do and how you will do it. The research brief
need not be longer than a page or two and will provide
some direction to your research efforts. The research brief
is nothing more than your firm's export market(ing) research
It is called a research brief rather than a research plan because it is commonly used as an formal instruction (or brief) for the research agency that will conduct the research. If you plan to do the research yourself, then the brief is really your research plan. In this section, we will continue to refer to it as a research brief.
The structure of the research
Your research brief should
contain the following five elements:
- Background:In your background to the research
brief, you would sketch a short history of the firm, pointing
out that the firm has taken a deliberate decision to enter
the export market. This should be followed by a short statement
of the firm's interim export mission statement and export
objectives (which you outlined in step
4 of the export process)
- you need only copy and paste this mission statement and
list of objectives into your research brief.
- Research objectives: You need to translate' your export objectives into research objective. Based on what you hope to achieve with your exports you now need to indicate what you need to know in order to be able to successfully achieve these objectives. For example, your research objectives may be to:
- Identify a shortlist of countries to focus on
- Select a target market within each of these countries to focus your research and marketing efforts on
- Better understand the market environment within which you will be competing
- Identify the tariff and non-tariff barriers to your success
- Identify your major competitors and the products they sell
- Understand what drives your customer to buy similar products
- Understand the importance of brands, pricing, quality, features, service, etc. to your potential customers
- Identify intermediaries that could assist you enter the market place
- Identify the best way to market your products in the foreign marketplace
methodology: This part of the research brief is quite important
and will outline how you plan to carry out your export marketing
research. In this regard, there will be two main objectives
behind the research methodology that you implement (linking up with the market and marketing research persepctives we mentioned in the previous section):
first part of the methodology is to evaluate countries abroad
and to segment these countries into two or three groups,
the main group being a shortlist of three to five countries
that you believe offers your firm real potential for exports
(the other two groups are those with some potential and
those with no potential). These countries/markets you
have shortlisted will be further studied in order to
Go to CountryHelp.co.za to find out more about individual countries.
- Narrow your shortlist down to one or two countries
- this you would do using more extensive desk research
- Select one or more market segments within the countries you have chosen on which to focus your marketing research efforts (see point two below)
- To better understand the foreign environments that you will
be competing in in the case of these two countries - done using desk research and in-market research
- To better understand
how your company and its marketing mix will best meet the needs of the customer within the foreign marketplace - done using desk
research and in-market research. To this end, you may need to undertake both desk and in-market research, as well as secondary and primary research (we discuss the later on in this section).
In this section, you would need to elaborate on the means of doing this research. For example, will you need to interview several hundred potential customers to better understand their needs, or will you simply interview several intermediaries and trust their feedback and view of the marketing opportunities for your company?
budget: A statement of the money you will make available for this research. Click here to read more about preparing a research budget for your exports.
- Research schedule: The research schedule should indicate
how long this research will take to complete and when the
various outputs of the research can be expected.
The brief will end with a conclusion, summarising the purpose
of the research and indicating that all of the outcomes
generated by this brief will be compiled into an export
market(ing) research report..
The brief must represent clear guidelines for researchers
The research brief must be unambiguous,
i.e. it should mean the same to all concerned. This is particularly
important if you plan to use an external market research
organisation to do the research for you or if you plan to appoint
another staff member within your firm to take responsibility for the research.
In addition, the degree of accuracy expected in terms of
the results should be specified in the brief. As the research
will probably be a basis for decision-making, benchmarks
need to be established against which results can be measured.
A brief description of the other important
criteria you will use in order to guide your research efforts
in (a) selecting between countries and (b) evaluating specific
markets, e.g. "Market selection should, in particular, take
into account the need to use specialised overseas marketing
staff as economically as possible" (i.e. indicating to the
researcher that (s)he should try and find a collection of
markets which are clustered together geographically and
within which the fewest possible languages are spoken).
The company's export capabilities will influence the brief
Before proceeding with the research, all
researchers involved need to be aware of a company's export
capabilities as this information will influence the scope
of their research task. If, for example, a company can only
supply a small volume of goods for export purposes, it follows
that it should focus on only one market abroad, and/or seek
out only one or two intermediaries in a particular country. In other words, your research is likely to be far less in-depth than if you were planning to expand heavily into a market. Similarly, if a company
does not have the ability or resources to modify its product
range, then the target markets must be limited to those
in which the unmodified product will be acceptable. What is more, if the
export-marketing budget is very small, then sales may need
to be generated in the selected markets without the help
of any advertising support and this will impact on what research you undertake (you wouldn't consider television media in your research, for example). This information can perhaps
be included in the introduction section of the research
brief together with the export objectives of the firm.