Sample Research Proposal on Marketing Problems and Maybourne Hotel Group

Introduction

The hospitality industry’ is characterized by intense customer satisfaction efforts. Being a service industry, the ability to attain high levels of customer satisfaction is crucial for customer retention as well as for the attraction of new potential customers (Dominici & Guzzo 2011). The hotel sector occupies a large market share in the UK hospitality industry and can easily be identified through the various marketing efforts put in place by different players in the sector. The efforts to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction in the hospitality industry are driven by effective marketing strategies, which aim at the improvement of customer perceptions about hotel services. However, various challenges arise with reference to marketing for the hospitality industry.

It is essential for any business that lies within the hospitality industry to identify the problems associated with marketing their services and hence find solutions that can help improve the reception of their marketing designs (Dominici & Guzzo 2011). Several strategies have been used in marketing in the hospitality industry, the most wide spread being the social media. Despite this, differentiation proves to be a challenge to most of the hospitality industry businesses due to the nature of the services they offer as well as several challenges that relate to marketing.

The Maybourne Hotel Group in the UK is one of the players in the UK hospitality industry. The contributions of this facility to the economy has been immense and can be improved even further through more effective marketing strategies that can assist in the achievement of the company’s objectives. The British Hotel Group operates various hotels, which include The Connaught, The Berkeley, and Claridge’s. Despite the company’s recognition as a luxury hotel operator, it has been under debt since its inception following the takeover of the Savoy Group of Hotels in 2004 by Derek Quinlan and its subsequent renaming in 2005 (Maybourne 2015).

Problem Definition

The prevalence of debt within the company clearly indicates that there is an issue that needs to be addressed through better profitability. This is further explained by the fact that the company’s debts are not a result of a single loan but rather due to multiple loan prospects that had been entered into between 2004 and 2012. In the hospitality industry, better profitability is tied directly to the level of customer satisfaction through service delivery. Customers have different ways of measuring the quality of service in the hotel industry and as such, efforts have to be made to saturate the market with relevant information about service delivery at Maybourne. However, this has proved to be difficult over the years because of various marketing related problems, which hinder effective marketing.

The problems faced by the company in terms of marketing include intangibility of service, inability to separate production from service consumption, perishability of services and fluctuation of demand among many others (Zeithaml et al 1985). This research study will focus on the highlighted marketing problems besides other five challenges. The key objectives of the study will be to identify the marketing problems faced by Maybourne Hotel Group and to give recommendations on how these challenges can be handled to ensure improved profitability.

Research Objectives

To achieve the overall objective of the study, the research will be guided by the following specific objectives:

  • To identify at least 8 marketing problems relating to Maybourne Hotel Group
  • To explain the implications of the marketing problems on the Hotel Group’s customer satisfaction levels
  • To give recommendations on how to deal with the marketing problems at the Hotel Group.

For these specific objectives to be achieved by this research, the guiding questions include:

  • What are the marketing problems associated with the Maybourne Hotel Group?
  • What impacts do the identified problems have on the Hotel Group’s performance with respect to customer satisfaction?
  • What recommendations can be made for handling these marketing related problems at Maybourne?

Research Design

The proposed research will be carried out based on a qualitative research design. The choice of design has been made based on the nature of the expected study findings. Qualitative research has been confirmed to be effective for the collection of data that is in most cases theoretical. This will be carried out using verbal strategies as well as consideration of non-verbal communication strategies (Chauhan 2011). The aims of the research also qualify the study for the use of qualitative research strategy. This is because the project aims at obtaining descriptive information. Moreover, qualitative research is also suitable for the explanation of cause – effect relationships such as the impacts of the identified problems on the Hotel Group’s customer satisfaction levels. Based on the type of information required, a conclusive approach will be adopted for the study. One of the uses associated with conclusive research is the description of relevant characteristics (Malhotra et al 2012). This is the main objective of conclusive research in this study. Although a description of characteristics will not be carried out in the proposed research, the problems identified will be described in details hence the need to use conclusive research approach. Particularly, the descriptive concept will be applied since it relates to the market situation and will include concepts such as customer profiling and market segment description (Chauhan 2011). In carrying out the study, two types of data collection strategies will be used.

Secondary data collection

Secondary data collected from various sources will form the basis of the qualitative study. The selection of relevant materials will be based on a set of inclusion criteria identified prior to the literature selection. Some of the criteria that will be used to determine the valid materials for use in the present study include relevance of the material content to the present research objectives and the validity of the study results. Others shall be the theoretical background associated with the study presented in the material analyzed for relevance, the methodology used in the study, the objectives of the study, the reproducibility of the results, and the accuracy of the results. The validity of the information represented by anyone of literature is tied to its accuracy, precision, and reproducibility. The first basis for inclusion is considered to be the relevance of the material to the present study objectives. The information collected from the secondary sources is only considered dependable based on the credibility of the source (Witt 2001). Pieces of literature from credible hospitality and marketing journals will be automatically considered credible. In addition, literature by authors recognized as having strong command of the study subject will be taken to be credible sources of information for the study.  This will be determined by using a content based search for materials using key words such as Maybourne and Hospitality marketing, marketing challenges and marketing problems in the hospitality industry.

It is believed that by finding information relating to marketing problems in the general hospitality industry; it will be possible to relate these problems to Maybourne through induction. Moreover, the identified problems may also form the basis for carrying out the primary research as they give an idea about the expectations of the study in terms of marketing problems. This makes secondary research an invaluable source of information on which the primary study will be based. For instance, the problems identified through secondary research as pertaining to marketing in the hospitality industry can be used as multiple choice answers in helping the potential survey respondents to identify the problems they relate to Maybourne Hotel Group.

Primary Research

The primary research will be carried out to help build on the information received through secondary research. This will be achieved through the use of interviews administered on site to employees in the marketing department of any business within the hospitality industry. The inclusion criteria for the potential participants will be that they have to be working within the hospitality industry and must have engaged in marketing for the industry for a significant period. The aim of the primary research is to help in the confirmation of the primary problems in marketing that have been previously identified through the secondary research (Malhotra et al 2012). The interview process has been chosen since it has several advantages, especially with the type of research that is to be carried out in this study.

Some of the advantages associated with interviews in this study include convenience for collection of information on marketing in the hospitality industry; interviews are also efficient for data collection and are more accessible (Malhotra 2002). Moreover, besides the collection of information relayed verbally, face-to-face interviews also enable the researcher to read the non- verbal cues portrayed by the respondents. This will enable the information given to be synthesized more easily, as well as applied effectively in drawing conclusions for the study (Malhotra 2002). The researcher will be recording the non- verbal communication cues through writing and will apply this during the data analysis phase. The interviews will be based on open-ended questions and will be recorded for analysis of the information obtained. The interviews will be non-standardized and carried out on a one-to-one basis, and carried out face-to-face. The rationale behind this approach is that it enables the interviews to be carried out even while the participants continue with their work. The questions asked in the interview will be few, about five in total and will be aimed at evaluating their different experiences in marketing in the hospitality industry. 9 questions will be asked. Each of the interviews will take 10-12 minutes based on the level of freedom possessed by the participant.

In order to achieve the objectives of the interviews, the researcher needs to develop effective personal relations with the respondents prior to the interview sessions. This will be achieved through the initiation of initial contact with the potential respondents through the assistance of various personnel in the different hotels targeted by the study. This will be further developed through the creation of positive rapport with the potential respondents prior to the interview meetings. To achieve this, the researcher has to engage in introductory interactions with the potential respondents.

Sampling technique

The choice of participants will be randomized. The participants will be employees in the hospitality industry, and particularly in the hotel sector. The number of intended participants for the study is 10, and will be based in at least 4 different hotels. This objective of this diversity is to be able to obtain information that can be related to the entire industry and which can thus be related to the Hotel of target in the study. The hotels to be included in the interview have to be rated at the same position with the Maybourne Hotel Group hotels or greater. This implies that only employees of three star hotels and above are capable of being considered in the study.

Interview questions

The seven questions that will be asked during the interviews will all be aimed at achieving the study’s objectives. The first two questions relate to the participants’ demographic profiles, and to their experience in the marketing sectors. The aim of these two questions is to determine the capacity of the respondents to give valid information. The age of the respondents influences the level of experience and understanding that can be achieved from interviewing them while their experience in the marketing sector relates positively to the credibility of the information they provide. The other questions focus on the actual research problem, which relates to the identification of marketing problems in the hospitality industry.

Each of these questions will be open ended to enable the participants to identify the problems based on their own experiences rather than on a guided list of problems. The participants will also be asked to give the methods they have used during their experiences to deal with the problems identified. It is expected that the problems identified by the respondents will be similar to varying extents with those already highlighted through a study of relevant literature. As a recap of the interview activity, a list of the already identified problems will be read to the participants then they will be requested to identify the problems they may have faced in their practice. This will enable effective solutions to the marketing problems to be obtained besides enhancing the depth of the information received.

Ethical Considerations in study

The engagement of participants in primary research is subject to various ethical considerations. The first consideration is that the potential participants have to do so willingly. Participation is not to be based on coercion or force but rather be out of will (Milgram 1974). One of the ways that can help the researcher to achieve this is through the development of positive rapport with the potential respondent as explained previously. Moreover, the researcher also has the responsibility of explaining to the potential respondents the objectives of the research and the contributions that their participation would have on the study (Shenton 2004). In addition to this, the researcher must also explain the reason for carrying out the research and the intended outcome. Secondly, the identity of the respondents will also be considered confidential and hence the interviews will be carried out based on anonymity. This will be achieved through identity coding for the purpose of the research. The researcher will also adhere to the requirement of no harm to the participants. This will help to maintain trust between the respondents and the researcher and thus improve the validity of information. The researcher also plans to maintain transparency in the use of the information obtained and in the dissemination of the same.

On the secondary study, various considerations also come to light. First, the use of any secondary information will be subject to copyright laws (Thorne 1998). This implies that only information disseminated for public use will be applied in the present study. In addition to this, any information used will be duly attributed to the original authors of the information (Triparthy 2013). This is to avoid instances of plagiarism and to provide depth to the already available information rather than to increase the volume of secondary materials without increasing the content of the materials. The information used in the study also has to be reliable to avoid dissemination of false information.

Project timeline

The project will be carried out over a period of 3 months. The first one month will be spent in the identification of the potential secondary sources and the extraction of information from these sources. The planning of the primary data collection will be carried out within one month while the interviews will take another one month. Data analysis and representation will be carried out in a span of one month. The following Gantt chart gives the timeline breakdown for the entire study.

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12
Content based literature search and appraisal                
    Recursive abstraction of information from included secondary sources            
          Summary of secondary findings        
    Contacting potential respondents            
      Obtaining authorization from hotel managements            
          Carrying out scheduled interviews    
            Coding and analysis of interview data    
                Compilation of project report

Recommendations for competitiveness

Following the identification of various marketing problems that can be faced in the hotel set up, the following recommendations have been made to Maybourne Hotel Group.

First, to deal with the fluctuations in demand, the Hotel Group may also change employee numbers through hiring additional part time employees during the high season. The rationale for doing this is that the public image of the hotels is determined by the quality of services such as timeliness and accuracy. Having a sufficient number of employees helps the hotels to advance in marketing as it improves the quality of services.

Secondly, the hotel group should also keep a customer database to help in customer profiling and to identify most prevalent customer needs so that marketing efforts should target those needs.

Also, since the hotel industry is focused on services, the intangibility of services can be addressed through intensive advertising based on the tangible aspects of the hotels under the group. This will help build a strong public image, which is critical in service marketing.

Conclusion

The proposed study is aimed at identifying the marketing problems associated with the Maybourne Hotel Group with an aim of finding recommendations for their solutions. Marketing forms an essential backbone for the success of the hospitality industry and can only be said to be successful if it results in improved customer satisfaction. The objectives of the study therefore relate to the identification of potential problems and those already faced in marketing in the study Hotel. The research will be carried out based on a qualitative strategy since this has been identified as being suitable for a theoretical study aim.

The particular approach that will be adopted for the proposed study is the descriptive approach to conclusive research as it is essential in the exploration of cause -effect relationships. In addition to this, the research will also be based on both primary and secondary approaches to study. The secondary approach will be carried out based on existing pieces of literature which will be selected based on the relevance of the contents to the proposed study objectives. Furthermore, other inclusion criteria will also be used to determine the relevance of pieces of literature to the study objectives.

For primary research, interviews will be used to obtain information for the present study. The reason for selecting the interviews is that they are convenient, flexible, and more flexible. The application of both study methods is however subject to various ethical considerations pertaining to the treatment of data and participants for the secondary and primary data collection strategies respectively. Although the proposed approaches to research are effective for achieving the study objectives, the major limitations associated with the study may contrib.ute to its low level of effectiveness. The limitations include a narrow theoretical basis due to unavailability of information relating to Maybourne in the selected study subject, and a narrow sample size for the participants. Moreover, the information that will be gained from the participant will only be based on the information obtained from the secondary literature.

References

Chauhan, E 2011, Research design. [Slideshare] Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/chauhanekta97/research-design-7510145

Dominici, G and Guzzo, R 2010, Customer satisfaction in the hotel industry: a case study from Sicily. International Journal of Marketing studies, 2, 2.

Malhotra, N.K 2002, Basic Marketing Research: A Decision-Making Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

Malhotra, N, Birks, D and Wills, P 2012, Marketing Research: An Applied Approach, 4th Ed, Pearson Education Ltd.

Maybourne Hotel Group 2015, Maybourne Hotel Group. Retrieved from http://www.maybourne.com/

Milgram S 1974, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. London: Tavistock Publications

Shenton, A 2004, strategies for ensuring trustworthiness in qualitative research projects. Education for Information, 22.

Thorne, S 1998, Ethical and representational issues in qualitative secondary analysis. Sage Publications.

Tripathy, J 2013, Secondary data analysis: ethical issues and challenges. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 42, 12: 1478-1479.

Witt, H 2001, Strategies in qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative Social Research Forum, 2, 1.

Zeithaml, V, Parasuraman, A and Berry, L 1985, Problems and strategies in services marketing. Journal of Marketing, 49: 33-46.

Appendix: Interview Questions

Researcher’s name: ___________________________________________________________

The purpose of this questionnaire is to help obtain information that will help in the identification and solution of marketing problems in the hospitality industry. Kindly participate fully by giving accurate information to the best of your knowledge. Your contribution will be highly appreciated. Your identity will not be revealed to the public.

  1. What is your present age?
  2. For how long have you worked in the marketing segment of the hospitality industry?
  3. What factors contribute to customer satisfaction in the hotel industry?
  4. How do these factors influence your marketing plans?
  5. What marketing problems have you identified in your course of duty?
  6. How have you responded to these identified problems?
  7. How have the problems identified as relating to marketing in the hospitality industry impacted on the company’s profitability?
  8. Do you believe the solution of the mentioned problems will contribute to increased effectiveness of the marketing process?
  9. Which of the following problems have you identified in your course of work? (Kindly respond to the problem you identified at your work place)

 

  • Complexity in the market environment
  • Intangibility of services
  • Fluctuations of demand
  • Difficulty in guest profiling
  • Difficulties in brand differentiation
  • Perishability of services