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 plan. 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 brief

Your research brief should contain the following six elements:

  1. 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 – you need only copy and paste this mission statement and list of objectives into your research brief.
  2. 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.
  3. Research 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):
  4. Research 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Conclusion: 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.

Evaluation criteria

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.