Focus Group Research for Digital e-Marketing Strategy Development

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Digital or e-Marketing Strategy Development
Research Design & Methodology

 

Optimal research is based on triangulation between scholarly and industry research representing a process with related factors, then analysis and coding of key stakeholder feedback according to same process.  Thirdly, it can be followed by quantitative data gathering or survey of customers’ attitudes on the factors that emerged, joining the circle or triangulation.

 

The literature review can highlight research and industry issues or views of marketing and communications for international education or related products and services, leading to an optimal marketing and communications construct to inform strategy and professional practice.  Additionally, to inform or validate any construct, qualitative data needs to be collected through focus type respondents from industry or target market, coded and analysed for inclusion of important factors in a survey instrument.

 

Quantitative data can be collected, described and analysed; resulting in a practical process and template for both small and large entities. It is limited neither to education nor marketing, but applicable to any workplace investigation or consulting, not unlike good investigative journalism or detective work or training needs analysis.

 

Research Approach Rationale

 

This data collection and qualitative research use the inductive approach, with grounded research methods, which informs development of a survey instrument, and represents the purchase decision process model.  The focus is ‘information search or discovery process’, produces data for analysis and then informs a generic marketing and communications model or template, for marketing and communication practitioners, through a process.

 

This is opposed to taking the deductive approach of testing a hypothesis already formed from previous research or practice, assuming data and a hypothesis or rationale is publicly available.  However, the deductive approach is precluded by the lack of the following: transparent marketing strategies, access to data, direct process based KPIs key performance indicators and ROI return on investment, meaningful analytics on student marketing and communications, and access to statistically significant sample population(s).

 

 

Effective medium or long-term strategy may be precluded by a short-term sales or ROI type of analysis of an annual marketing investment budget, evaluating only selected inputs and outputs, but neither processes nor future income streams.  Accordingly, with related scholastic research lacking in this field, a contemporary framework or construct reflecting both target market and changing technology, is needed to aid analysis and future marketing.

 

Research Design & Methodology

 

The research can start with question or proposal round ‘information seeking’, review of marketing research literature and education industry reports with expert focus respondent feedback.  From the latter, a survey instrument can be developed, piloted, data collected, then analysed according to descriptive statistics through e.g. Survey Monkey, then data tabulated, presented, analysed, reported and linked back for business applications.

 

Inductive Approach to Qualitative Research

 

One can take the approach of ‘theory first’ and test deduced hypotheses to verify theory, or conversely ‘theory after’, not starting with theory but collecting data to generate a theory or model.  This is not unlike inferring the significant factors that impact how Google and Facebook Page search algorithms affect SEO, when the algorithm is commercial in confidence.

 

The research is based on eliciting relevant process or factors to inform and develop a latent construct of optimal marketing and communications for students as purchasers, especially related to the information seeking phase or journey.  This construct, developed through inference, should suggest good industry practice that includes latent factors or (re)sources that allow students to find relevant information to analyse for a future purchase decision.

 

Advantages of this approach are that it allows one to take a research direction, it does not force respondents to adopt a restrictive theory or framework that may preclude relevant feedback (Saunders et al., 2009).  Such a construct can be used to develop a marketing and communications strategy or template, then used to develop initial, or compare existing, strategy and evaluate, according to users, clients or students; creating systematic process and utility in the sector.

 

Research Proposition

 

How do students’ or customers’ information seeking behaviours relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education or related service industries?

 

The research proposition posits that there is a relationship between more recent information seeking factors exemplified by digital, and the older WOM word of mouth, for a purchase decision process, with development of grounded, practical marketing and communication strategy.

 

This data collection and research focused mostly upon the similarities in recent digital based ‘information search or discovery process’, the factors that are related to this process and could be used to infer an optimal information seeking construct or model (Kotler & Keller, 2012).

 

Reference List:

 

Kotler, P. & Keller, K. (2012) Marketing Management. (14th Ed.) Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education – Prentice Hall.

 

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2009) Research Methods for Business Students. (5th Ed.) Harlow UK: Pearson Education Ltd.

 

 

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Marketing Word of Mouth Push Pull Factors International Student Satisfaction

International Education Marketing – Push and Pull Factors, WOM, Satisfaction & ROI

 

Extract from MBA dissertation:

How do international students’ information seeking behaviour relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education?

 

Some decades ago research highlighted home country ‘push factors’ vs destination ‘pull factors’ considered with following prioritised steps: decide to study abroad, choose destination and then institution; much impacted by WOM (word of mouth) of influencers, peers and family (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002).

This model is too simplistic nowadays with many other potential factors or dimensions.  Additionally, it ignores the detailed factors related to how students search for information, that matches an optimal strategy i.e. including WOM amongst friends, more on social media (SM) and MIS (Management Information Systems) to match (Whitler, 2014).

 

Further, in addition to course choice, is the need for increased service and information quality to support students and increase the perception of quality, suggesting a linkage between quality and effective marketing (Russell, 2005).

 

Other issues that have not been addressed include the lack of detailed marketing strategy evaluation to assess effectiveness and direct outcomes, versus return on investment based upon on enrolment outcomes, while ignoring processes in between (Hemsley-Brown & Oplatka, 2006).

 

Good strategy should allow focus upon relevant factors, along with WOM communication for analysis and transmission of marketing messages, through analysis of the information seeking factors making up that phase or dimension.

 

Further, this may include revisiting marketing process based KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), that may not represent the process fully e.g. both existing and prospective student behaviour over time, digital channels or social media carrying WOM, and accordingly maybe invalid?

 

Reference List:

 

Hemsley-Brown J & Oplatka, I (2006) Universities in a competitive global marketplace. International Journal of Public Sector Management. 19(4) pp. 316 – 338. Available at:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513550610669176 (Accessed 18/11/2016).

 

Mazzarol T & Soutar G (2002) Push pull factors influencing international student destination choice.  The International Journal of Education Management. 16(2) pp. 82-90. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513540210418403 (Accessed: 18/11/2016).

 

Russell, M. (2005). Marketing education: a review of service quality perceptions among international students. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. 17(1). pp. 65-77 https://doi.org/10.1108/09596110510577680 (Accessed: 21/03/2017).

 

Whitler, K. (2014) Why word of mouth marketing is the most important social media.  Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlywhitler/2014/07/17/why-word-of-mouth-marketing-is-the-most-important-social-media/#2f76616d54a8 (Accessed: 10/05/2017).