A marketing research plan needs to include different types of market research, and include the impact or results of that research in your business and/or your business plan. You can build a stronger value proposition by using a targeted marketing research process and approach.
What are some different types of market research? In terms of the process of analyzing your market, there is primary research (collected for the 'first' time, original investigation) and secondary research (use of data and analysis from other sources - online and offline). Primary is usually more time consuming and expensive but is more likely to be more clearly targeted on a specific issue or problem; secondary may be more general, less targeted but more economical.
Why is having a marketing research plan important to your business? Because without a plan you will not understand as much as you should about your market. For example, you will not know how your market (that is, customers) feels about your service, your products and your brand until they demonstrate it by not buying your products. The opposite of that - buying too much of your products - can also have an impact on your business; you may be forced into the position of not being able to satisfy a demand that you didn't see coming. In either scenario, the result will be unsatisfied customers.
The marketing research process and approach can include using methods such as surveys, interviews (face-to-face or telephone), and focus groups. It can be used to investigate competitive activities and impacts; the health of the industry you operate in; brand awareness and credibility; the impact and effectiveness of your advertising 'spend'; what motivates your customers to buy (from you or your competition); how satisfied your customers are (or aren't) and what it is that makes them satisfied, or not; what products or services you should add to your line; how to more narrowly target your market; whether you should grow your geographically reach; and much more.
Conducting marketing analysis includes defining the management issue or question to be answered (the why); developing the proposal (how will the issue be studied); identifying what will be studied, the time frame (when it will be studied and for how long), and who will be doing the analysis. Once the problem is clearly defined, the key issues in researching revolve around accurate and unbiased data collection, analysis and interpretation of the data and reporting of results.
Of critical importance, once the marketing research plan is completed, and the analysis has been conducted, is to act on the recommendations of the study. The investment of your time and resources must benefit the business: if you trust the results of the analysis and research, then make decisions and take action on the outcomes. If you don't trust or believe the results of the research, then invest in re-doing it, or having a third party consultant or researcher take a different approach. But don't go into a research project with a pre-defined idea of what the result should be; you will build bias into the study and be disappointed in the outcomes.