Mintzberg suggests that the top planners spend most of their time engaged in analysis and are concerned with industry or competitive analyses as well as internal studies, including the use of computer models to analyze trends in the organization. Strategic planners use a variety of research tools and analytical techniques, depending on the environment complexity and the firm's goals. Fleitcher and Bensoussan, for instance, have identified some 200 qualitative and quantitative analytical techniques regularly used by strategic analysts while a recent publication suggests that 72 techniques are essential. No optimal technique can be identified as useful across all situations or problems. Determining which technique to use in any given situation rests with the skill of the analyst. The choice of tool depends on a variety of factors including: data availability; the nature of the marketing problem; the objective or purpose, the analyst's skill level as well as other constraints such as time or motivation.
Strategic planning typically begins with a scan of the business environment, both internal and external, this includes understanding strategic constraints. An understanding of the external operating environment, including political, economic, social and technological which includes demographic and cultural aspects, is necessary for the identification of business opportunities and threats. This analysis is called PEST; an acronym for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. A number of variants of the PEST analysis can be identified in literature, including: PESTLE analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental); STEEPLE (adds ethics); STEEPLED (adds demographics) and STEER (adds regulatory).
The U.S. Census Bureau website also contains valuable information relevant to marketing. The Bureau's business publications cover many topics and trades--such as sales volume at furniture stores and payrolls for toy wholesalers--and are useful for small businesses as well as large corporations in retail, wholesale trade, and service industries. Also available are census maps, reports on company statistics regarding different ethnic groups, and reports on county business patterns.
That’s why you’re seeing hashtags on TV shows, which send users to UGC-filled feeds on Instagram and Twitter. It’s also why content marketing is being distributed through email newsletters, and why retargeting focuses on relationships in order to better improve messaging to direct site traffic. A cohesive and audience-focused marketing strategy—no matter what marketing mix you’re using—is going to be the most important factor to success.
The vision and mission address the second central question, 'Where are we going?' At the conclusion of the research and analysis stage, the firm will typically review its vision statement, mission statement and, if necessary, devise a new vision and mission for the outlook period. At this stage, the firm will also devise a generic competitive strategy as the basis for maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage for the forthcoming planning period.
Finally, there are educational institutions that conduct research in various ways, ranging from faculty-based projects often published under professors' bylines, to student projects, theses, and assignments. You may be able to enlist the aid of students involved in business classes, especially if they're enrolled in an entrepreneurship program. This can be an excellent way of generating research at little or no cost, by engaging students who welcome the professional experience either as interns or for special credit. Contact the university administration and marketing or management studies departments for further information.