Research Efficiently – Secondary Research First

Chances are, you’ve heard the saying “don’t reinvent the wheel.” The basic sentiment is how pointless it is to put effort into creating something that has already been done. Well, the same applies when you need answers or insights. Research can be a very involved, time-consuming, and expensive process depending on what your goals are and what study method is appropriate. But don’t default to that train of thought immediately. First, make sure you’ve exhausted all accessible sources of secondary research.

Take a look at this simple Venn diagram by The advantages of searching out secondary data first are pretty stark right away. Research is done every day, by all sorts of organizations, and for all sorts of purposes. There may be research that you haven’t done yourself and wasn’t done for your purposes, but that still answers your questions. Some may be obvious. If you want to know the demographics of your area to better segment your audience, you wouldn’t send your team out to try (and probably fail) to find the information that has already been gathered by the Census Bureau. But even if it’s not quite so obvious a situation, and even if your question seems to be too specific to have been answered before, don’t skip the step of looking. Your answer may have been found in the process of answering somebody else’s question.

The first step is to fill your toolbox with solid secondary data sources. Zoho Academy posted one such resource list that makes a good starting place. You can check it out here. And speaking of toolboxes, The Market Research Toolbox by Edward McQuarrie has this to say about secondary data: “As a general rule, relatively speaking, secondary research also is the cheapest and quickest form of market research. You ignore or skimp on it at your peril. Its range of application is limited only by your ingenuity.”

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