1. Background

TSI Incorporated was established more than 50 years ago in Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN and has become a world-class leader in research & analytical, test & measurement technology for aerosol science, air flow, indoor air quality, fluid dynamics and biohazard detection, with more than 50% market share in some of these key areas. Many businesses with particle research instruments are booming in such areas as filter testing, bio- and virus protections, new drug development, biofuels, engine emission control and others. As such TSI instruments provide timely help with measuring materials at sub-micron and nanoscales. With TSI's headquarters based in the U.S. and field offices throughout Europe and Asia, TSI has established a worldwide presence in the markets. For more information, please refer to TSI's website at www.tsi.com.

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2. Project Rationale

The market for Optical Particle Counters (OPCs) is much diversified as most commercially available instruments are targeted at clean room and micro-contamination monitoring. New TSI research OPC is addressed for markets where TSI particle instruments business has established an expertise and market presence due to high product quality and attractive business/pricing, and can fill gaps (i.e. make use of market opportunities) - both in TSI's product line and the ones of our competitors.

These market niches are environmental monitoring, basic and applied aerosol research, and filter testing, where the product is promoted in professional publications and public events. TSI is considering the possibility for a separate line of OPCs to address these market segments via regional distributor networks in Europe and direct selling to key accounts such as Universities and blue-chip companies. The company now wishes to commission the research to help decision-making.

3. Objectives

The main goal of this research is focused on "Customers' attitudes towards the OPCs product and services". The attitudes will be measured against relevant parameters, either technical or users' features, which is critical to quality (CTQ). This research also aims to gain a better understanding of customer's and non-customers (economic buyers, agencies etc) perception and experiences with OPC products. Consequently the following objectives have been formulated:

1) To identify how OPC is used in customers' business and the critical-to-quality parameters.

2) To gather Customer/Non-customer reactions and attitudes towards to the new product line.

3) To examine a market environment before a product launch.

4) To determine a promotional platform for the OPC product line.

4. Possible Methodology

The research is to be conducted by an aerosol technology experienced agency and supervised by TSI's internal staff. In particular, people chosen for the research must have experience with both particle instrument business, familiar with key applications and aerosol measurement standards. It is expected that both qualitative and quantitative approaches be used.

A literature search will be carried out from all readily available materials to review the current market tends. Further way to gather information is talking with TSI employee (e.g. internal TSI's product specialists, company's sales force etc.) to get information not available publicly or in the literature. Although this approach is valuable, data has questionable validity because it is highly subjective and might not be representative of the population. As such a focus group (6-10 people) in selected market niches will be used to explore customer's/non-customers concerns and attitudes to OPC product.

Selected experts in each focus group will be taken for personal interviews based on a questionnaire to get in-depth and comprehensive information about the subject area. Group population can be selected from existing aerosol businesses, leading experts, and key customers, in such a way that the balance will be kept between customers and non-customers. As a budget of research and balance of population is defined, quota sampling (Collis and Hussey, 2009) is proposed for sampling of the population. Quota of 12 respondents could be sufficient, and convenience or judgment sampling can be used to select the required number of subjects from each population group.

TSI may provide a global customer database and marketing communication specialist to assist in contacting a target audience. Competitors' users may give inaccurate and/or irrelevant data, which should be treated carefully or excluded from research results. It would be helpful to set up a meetings with those busy individuals selected for an interview and/or provide them with prepared questionnaires and guidelines to save their time and efforts. If it is useful product technical data will be provided on selected models.

Questionnaires will be sent by post or email to selected respondents. A well-known University will be approached to discuss the possibility for University sponsorship to focus group meetings and a questionnaire. For increasing response rate it is planned to use pre-notification letters and phone calls alongside with nonmonetary incentives for less known respondents. In addition, cover letter with stamped reply envelope and follow-ups or reminders will be used to conduct the research. Overall, it can increase a respond rate by 20-40% (Wilson, 2006). Data analysis and test of significance (p < ?) will be conducted to validate the results.

Note that TSI do not wish to supply any restricted data to avoid any possible complications with the Data Protection Act. The company is also concerned with the Code of Conduct when doing research with employees or customers.