Making the Most of Secondary Market Research

While primary market research and direct engagement with your audience has obvious benefits, it can also be very expensive and time consuming.

Before investing time and energy on primary research, companies should also consider other sources of research that are available to them.

The internet has made secondary market research a very powerful tool for aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses. While secondary research used to involve scanning through encyclopedias or looking for relevant journals in a library, much of this information is now simply a Google search away.

Secondary research can therefore be very valuable to find out about your market quickly and without significant cost.

Compared to primary research, secondary market research has a number of key benefits:

  1. Cost – Survey’s take a long time to design, build and execute, while secondary research may not directly answer your specific questions, it is significantly cheaper and more cost effective.
  2. Speed – As the data collection has already been done, secondary research yields much faster results.
  3. Credibility – Secondary research can help you find credible sources that will carry much more weight than your own research, such as industry bodies or government research. The benefit of this is two fold; it will give you more confidence in the viability of your business plan, as it has been substantiated by an external source, and it will help support a business case that you make to investors, as they can see that you have used external, unbiased research.
  4. Scope / reach – Secondary research is likely to provide you access to a far larger number of responses than you would have achieved with your research budget and the time available. For instance, a government sponsored survey on the spending habits of 10,000 households, or a newspaper backed opinion poll will have a far broader reach than you could have hoped for with your own primary research. This has obvious benefits in terms of the accuracy of the results and the strength of the conclusions.

Secondary research can be used at the very start of your business, to identify whether it is worth investing time in more in-depth research.

It makes you far more knowledgeable on the topic before you go into the primary research phase.

This will ensure that you ask the right questions in your surveys, you avoid asking obvious questions (that waste time and put respondents off) and will ensure that you can talk confidently on the topic when you are interviewing people.

It can also be used after you have conducted primary research to further substantiate your findings. Wider research may highlight some suspicious results from a survey or interviews that require further investigation.

Sources of Secondary Market Research

Secondary research can be found in a number of places and combining multiple sources allows you to corroborate the sources against one another.

  • Market research organisations
  • Annual reports / research papers from competitors
  • Government statistics / data
  • Industry bodies
  • News and media reports

You may have to pay for access to some of this information, but increasingly data can be found online for free.

Pitfalls to avoid

There are a couple of key things that you should be aware of when using secondary research. You should look for the date that the information was collated, if it is very old, the findings may no longer be relevant.

You should also be wary of what the data was collected for. If a competitor has collected it as part of a marketing campaign it may be biased towards a particular result. Companies often have “independent” white papers available on their website that are heavily skewed towards the products that the company is selling.

Secondary research is an essential part of a well rounded research process that will give you the best understanding of your target market and lay the best foundation on which to build your future research efforts.