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Feb, 28, 2013

Center for Market Research holds first symposium

Students campus forum encourages students to get involved in market search

By Brittney Schmies

On Feb. 21 the Center for Marketing Research, in the Monte Ahuja College of Business, kicked off its inaugural series of panel discussions with industry leaders on marketing research.

The panel discussion included the insights and advice from four expert market Jill Boyce, Joe Purnhagen, Rachel Siegle, Rob Sapinkopf, Dr. Dixit and Mike Wachterresearchers who are senior executives in major corporations. Around 150 students, faculty and community members registered to attend the event and learn from the industry insiders.

The Center for Marketing Research is fairly new to Cleveland State. It opened up in December 2012, explained Dr. Ashutosh Dixit, interim chair and associate professor of Department of Marketing. The center aims to become a leader in providing marketing research services to Northeast Ohio companies, hospitals and government agencies.

“We didn’t have any [similar] centers at CSU,” Dixit said, “Akron has a sale and retail center, so marketing research can be our niche.”

The center currently employs five students with the hope to grow to 20 students in the next three to four years by sparking interests of the students and community through the panel discussions and projects currently being worked on.

The goal is to engage students in marketing research, consultancy and generate more excitement while also educating the community and gaining more industry interaction in order to help the industry, Dixit said.

By putting on these panel series, Dixit hopes to build relationships and network with small, medium and even sometimes large industries in the region, in which the students will be able to have the hands-on experience needed to really understand marketing research.

At the panel the industry experts focused on a range of issues from understanding their consumers to developing and trying new things. Several questions were posed by the moderators, Dixit and doctoral student Mike Wachter, and while each insider had their own specific thoughts and examples, they all agreed on the basic functions and ideas of market research today.

Defining the role of marketing research, according to the insiders, came down to knowing and understanding the consumers, competitors and supply chains.

Jill Boyce, vice president of market research of the JM Smucker Company, explained that different organizations structure and handle market research differently, but identified market research is something that plays out into all aspects of a business.

Because of this encompassing aspect of market research it is important to understand that the research is more than just collecting and analyzing data. It is knowing how to use this data to help make informed decisions and how to interpret the data to understand what consumers want and need.

Recently the field of market research is seeing a shift in the direction of customer insight, Rob Sapinkopf, consumer insights manager for Hot Pockets at Nestle Prepared Foods, explained to the crowd. Industries are focusing on understanding why consumers do what they do.

“We [market research] are getting a seat at the table, we’re viewed as an equal partner and in some ways,”he said “the way we liked to be considered is that we are a business partner who’s knowledgeable about the business in the category. It’s just that we have an expertise in market research.”

The importance of tracking studies and innovations within the field were also discussed by the industry insiders.

Tracking studies gives researchers a look at how consumers perceive brands. Combining that with other forms of data allows researchers to get a full picture of what’s going on, said Boyce.

In terms of customers and customer satisfaction, tracking studies are key to being successful in customer relations. Tracking customers allows a business to identify opportunities for improvements as well as the customers who keep coming back.

“Loyal customers are our bread and butter,” Rachel Siegle, marketing research consultant for Caterpillar Inc., said. “Without tracking studies, we have no clue what we need to be doing.

The panelists emphasized that technology and social media also play a big part in market research in today’s industries.

“Traditional methods are dying…they are slow and not always efficient and costly at times,” Siegle said.

Social listening is also becoming a new measure for the industry. Following what people are saying through social media sites is becoming increasingly helpful. It allows for things such as correlating brand mapping to what consumers are saying about a product as well as customer feedback.

“It’s one way to measure market effectiveness without influencing the customer,” Joseph Purnhagen, commercial marketing manager of Lubrizol, said.

The industry insiders spent just over an hour discussing the general insights and workings of market research and fielding questions from the audience. Drawing the discussion to an end, the insiders collectively offered this advice to students considering marketing research as a career option: have a strong business understanding in either business in marketing techniques, finance or accounting, be curious, be adaptable and be conscientious and think broadly about market research beyond the stereotype of people at the mall with clipboards harassing shoppers.