Primary research reports establish your “voice of authority”
The type of information you want to gather about your customers, market trends or competition will influence the research methods you implement. There are myriad ways to collect information (from primary or secondary sources), and two types of information to gather (quantitative and qualitative). Any different combination of factors utilized may result in varying results, so utilize only those that lend themselves to your primary objective.
Primary research requires some legwork, as you’ll be the one gathering original information directly for your project. Among other initiatives, primary research may include:
- Interviews with customers, prospective customers and other pertinent individuals;
- Focus groups, developed and conducted by you;
- Surveys and questionnaires;
- Statistical and results analysis;
- Direct observations
Primary research allows you to manage the type of questions you ask and information you gather. Primary research results can be extremely valuable, and you’ll have first-hand knowledge of the quality of the research undertaken. However, this method can be quite time-consuming and costly.
Secondary research consists of gathered, existing information through available sources, such as:
- Previously published works;
- The internet;
- Existing market research;
- Industry sources;
- Government agencies;
- Libraries and archives
You may use secondary research to get an initial understanding of topic or field or market study. It is often easier to analyze than primary data because, frankly, the original author may have already done the legwork for you.
As previously stated, all research is subject to interpretation, and frequently it can be sliced and diced in numerous ways for varying objectives. When using secondary research, be cautious, as it may have been collected for something other than your planned objective, or even your business at all. It’s also imperative that this information isn't out-of-date. In this lightning fast world of ever-changing technology, media and commerce, yesterday’s survey may seem like a quaint relic of the past.
You may choose to use primary research methods once you have conducted secondary research to determine what information of value already exists.
Quantitative research gathers is based on numerical data as indicated by these factors:
- Sales Figures;
- Financial Trends;
- Industry Trends;
- Profit & Loss;
- External Factors & Trends
Quantitative Research, understandably, results in lots of statistics. But this information should be interpolated into the rest of your research and its narrative.
Qualitative Research registers human response—opinions, reactions and attitudes, and may be practiced via:
- Formal interviews and informal conversations with customers, prospective customers and other individuals about the topic, or product, being investigated;
- Focus groups chartered to glean consumer response toward your products and services;
- Investigation and review of competitors to understand their products and customer service practices.
Like a good content marketing initiative, you can utilize this approach to get a better understanding of your customers' interests, needs and habits. You can also identify opportunities for growing sales and improving customer service. Analyzing qualitative data is not the same as crunching numbers and data, and it takes longer to interpret than quantitative research because of the nature of the information.
No BS, Sherlock
Whatever your desired objective may be, it’s imperative that the information you gather is sound and your interpretation is accurate. While an excellently researched, brilliantly interpreted study may propel you to the upper ranks of your industry, a poorly-executed, sloppily-analyzed one could damage your reputation irreparably.
So put on your detective’s hat, polish that magnifying glass, and put your business and research acumen to lasting good use.