There are many key decisions that you need to make before launching a market research project – and among the most crucial, influential and fundamental is whether to choose a secondary market research supplier, or partner with a primary market research company. Before exploring this decision, it may be helpful to briefly cover the difference between secondary and primary market research.
Secondary Market Research
Secondary market research refers to information that has already been compiled and organized by secondary research suppliers, such as government agencies, industry or trade associations (e.g. Dun and Bradstreet, Robert Morris & Associates, etc.), research analyst firms (e.g. Gartner, Forrester, etc.), colleges and universities, media sources, magazines, newspapers, and so on. Some secondary market research suppliers specialize in providing this kind of data, while others offer multiple professional services, and market research is one of many things they offer.
Primary Market Research
Primary market research is derived directly from the source, such as prospective and current customers, employees (i.e. if a business is experiencing retention, morale or turnover issues), thought leaders and other marketplace influencers, and so on. Primary research can be exploratory or specific, but should always be rooted in solving a clear, practical and necessary business problem. There are also multiple methods of generating primary market research, such as online and direct mail surveys, phone and in-person interviews, focus groups, and so on. In most cases, a mix of methods yields the most valuable and actionable business intelligence.
When Choosing a Secondary Market Research Supplier Makes Sense
Considering the above, it may be hard to imagine why it might ever be sensible or desirable to choose a secondary market research supplier vs. a primary market research company. After all, why would a business opt for a generic product when it could customize and configure a solution that precisely fits their unique needs?
Well, under ideal situations – i.e. if time and budget were not limited – then, yes, primary market research would always be the more preferred option. However, in the real world, time and budget are indeed factors to consider; and therein lies the reasons for heading towards secondary vs. primary market research.
Specifically, secondary market research is significantly easier and faster to obtain than primary market research -- simply because, as noted above, the information is already compiled and organized.
Cost, however, is the bigger reason that some businesses opt for secondary market research, since it can be much cheaper than primary market research. With this being said, information that is available free from public sources is usually not robust and reliable enough to serve as legitimate market research. This is not to suggest that all of the free stuff is useless – because it can indeed be helpful. But, frankly speaking, if market research could be derived by surfing the web or reading a few books at the library, every business would do it. The fact that the world’s most profitable businesses spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (and many of them, millions) a year on primary market research is ample evidence that “there is really no such thing as free market research.” Free marketplace information, yes. But free market research, no.
Typically, the kind of secondary market research that businesses find useful are industry reports that cost a few thousand dollars; though some can exceed 5-figures. The risk, of course, is that there is no guarantee that the information will be useful (or as useful as desired).
There is also another important reason why some businesses may want to choose a secondary market research supplier vs. a primary market research company: because they are not precisely sure what their market research question (or questions) should be, and therefore need to do some initial exploration. Indeed, this is one reason why some primary market research companies build secondary market research into their overall offerings, because it is a faster and more cost-effective way to help clients build the framework for their primary market research efforts to follow.
To learn more about secondary and primary market research, and for an objective analysis of which direction is best for your market research needs and goals, contact the Communications For Research team today. You’ll speak with co-CEO Colson Steber, who can guide you on whether you need a secondary market research supplier or a primary market research company.
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