The concepts of dependent and independent variables in marketing provide a high-level view of the elements of marketing research. Effective marketing can level the playing field for small businesses competing against larger organizations that have deeper marketing budgets. Understanding how to use the interplay between dependent and independent variables to gauge the effectiveness of different marketing strategies is essential for small-business owners seeking to maximize their marketing impact using a limited budget.

Marketing Research Basics

Marketing strategies can require significant investment, and any marketing investment presents financial risks. Marketing research is the process of reducing the risk of marketing investments by seeking to understand the impact of controllable variables on specific business results. Use tools such as surveys, focus groups, limited product launches, and data from products already in the market to measure and understand how changes in different elements of the marketing mix influence marketing results. Track and measure as many variables as reasonably possible to continually gain insight into how your marketing strategies are working, or how well future strategies can be expected to perform. Dependent and independent variables are at the heart of this measurement, providing a scientific way to experiment with different strategies and tactics.

Independent Variables

Independent variables are the controllable factors that marketing researchers use to influence changes in the values of dependent variables. The elements of the marketing mix -- price, product, place and promotion -- are independent variables, since marketers can intentionally alter these factors at any time. The purpose of a marketing mix strategy, and thus of marketing research, is to maximize the outcome of dependent variables by finding the perfect combination of values for independent variables. Alter as many independent variables as you can to discover impacts and interrelationships that you might not have expected.

Dependent Variables

Dependent variables are uncontrollable in nature, and are directly influenced by changes in independent variables. Dependent variables can includes metrics such as sales revenue, sales growth, new-customer inquiries, same-store repeat sales, and the average size of transactions. The outcomes of dependent variables reveal whether certain strategies are more or less effective than others, allowing companies to invest in the most effective ideas. Measure a set of chosen dependent variables that most directly influence your strategic marketing goals.

Testing Independent Variables

When testing the outcome of independent variables on a given dependent variable, it can be useful to change a single independent variable at a time to more clearly see the impacts of each on the dependent outcome. Consider the independent variables of product, place, promotion and price, and their impact on the dependent variable of sales revenue, for example. You might decide to change only your pricing strategy for a time to clearly see how it affects revenue, then change your pricing back to previous levels and change your distribution model to gauge the impact that particular change makes on its own.