From helping fitness centers overcome COVID concerns to working with local nonprofits to support individuals with special abilities, graduate students at Ball College are on a mission to make marketing research count.
In partnership with clients across the state and beyond, students in Paul’s Marketing Research Class (MBA 562) work in small teams to conduct in-depth, relevant marketing research that helps organizations respond to real-world management decision problems.
The course not only helps clients better understand consumer behavior and make data-driven marketing decisions – it also helps students gain hands-on and hands-on experience and learn how to put theory into practice.
“Working with a real-world client and management issue keeps students engaged and gives them a glimpse of what it really means to conduct marketing research in the industry,” explains Stephanie Robinson, associate professor of marketing and associate director of consumer research at NC State. Lab. It also helps them to get firsthand knowledge of the importance of marketing research in decision making. ”
To address a management decision problem for a customer, students begin by identifying a specific marketing research problem. They then conduct secondary research, followed by qualitative work – such as focus groups and/or individual interviews – to elicit important insights to enrich their quantitative research. After creating a quantitative survey, students collect and analyze data to derive meaningful insights. Finally, at the end of the project, the students write a report and present their findings, conclusions, and recommendations to the client.
“It is very much a process of thinking and doing. First, I teach students the concept of specific marketing research and then I give them the various tools and exercises to study and practice. From there, they apply what they learned to a client project,” Robinson explains.
“For survey design, for example, I start by teaching the art and science of survey drafting. Students critique a survey in class and practice survey drafting of their own. Then, taking everything they learned in class, they develop surveys of marketing research problems for their clients. From there, they are usually It’s an iterative process. Students turn in their surveys, I provide feedback to help them make necessary adjustments and we continue this process as needed.”
Over the years, Poole’s marketing research students have worked on a variety of projects, including projects with local and global businesses and organizations in both the business-to-consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) sectors.
“It is very rewarding to see our students gain hands-on experience while also benefiting from our client partners in practical and profitable ways,” says Patrice Nealon, Paul Senior Lecturer in Marketing who teaches the online section of the MBA 562 course. “Recently, one of our clients was able to secure a government-military contract as a result of team research that analyzed potential target markets for anti-chafing spray. We have seen many amazing success stories like this over the years. With each new semester, I look forward to seeing the next step.” “.
Leveraging research for good
According to John Chaffee, owner and operator of 9Round Kickboxing Fitness in Northeast Raleigh, North Carolina, his participation in a marketing research project enables him to be a more responsive business owner. For three years, Poole’s MBA students have worked with 9Round on a number of marketing research issues, including consumer fitness facility preferences, exercise motivations and attitudes around COVID safety precautions.
“It was a great experience both ways. It gives students the opportunity to interact with things in the real world, and helps me get relevant local data that helps me make better decisions as a business owner.”
“When I talk to gym owners from other regions, I realize that their market is very different from my market in terms of consumer behavior and demographics. So even though I can comb through the data in our organization’s CRM software and various club publications, it is very helpful to have access to local data.
In addition to access to local data, partnering with Paul Shafei College allows them to get the most out of their marketing funds and better serve their client base. When reopening after the COVID lockdown, for example, Shafeei used data insights and recommendations to make informed decisions about how best to meet the preferences and needs of its customers.
“Amidst all the uncertainty about the pandemic and the challenging political arena, it has been difficult for businesses to figure out how to proceed with reopening while also making people feel safe,” explains Al Shafei. “For me, having these insights into the data and student recommendations was very important when it came time to make those tough decisions. If you want to be a relevant business, this kind of opportunity is a goldmine.”
And for Gabe Grounds, a three-tiered nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities find meaningful work, the project provided meaningful insights that Gaby Grounds could draw on to further advance its mission.
“We helped the students identify customer preferences and buying behaviors from companies that have their own social initiatives or companies that sponsor social causes,” explains Marie Angelini, co-founder of Gabi’s Grounds. “They have also worked to extract consumer insights about sponsoring businesses or researching services that hire people with disabilities.”
With these insights, Gabi’s Grounds can work to develop innovative solutions and build new partnerships with local businesses to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Left a mark
For Kara Gravenese, an MBA candidate at Jenkins University, mastering the marketing research process is an important part of making a difference in the world.
“I worked in the human services nonprofit sector as a director of outreach and communications for a number of years and realized that there were a lot of gaps in the industry and in my skill set. I came to North Carolina to fill those gaps and help my organization better achieve its mission,” Gravenese explains.
“Specifically, I realized how important data was in communicating an organization’s need and impact, but it wasn’t clear how to get that data or understand it. I was paralyzed. But now, because of the marketing research cycle, I am equipped. When I face the same issues again, I will be ready to collect, clean, transform and analyze relevant data.”
Through the Marketing Research course, students learn about multiple tools – such as SPSS and Qualtrics – and learn to read statistical analysis.
“I really appreciated how the course provided us with skills that will be relevant in the workplace. I have tough skills that I can take with me,” says Gravinese. “Before, I was reading research papers and the statistical details didn’t make sense to me. Now, these details have come to life.”
And for Gravinese, the opportunity to learn the process of marketing research through real-world application is invaluable.
“The marketing research process is very rigorous and detail-oriented. You need a high level of coordination to ensure you don’t miss anything and you also have to know enough level of detail. Going through this process has been very beneficial to my professional development,” says Gravenese. “But the best part was the business impact. To support the client’s goals through rigorous and rigorous academic research and give them answers that prove why they are doing what they do – that is the biggest thing. In a short amount of time, you can do something meaningful and see the fruits of your labor.”