Why Bother with Primary Marketing Research?

By on February 6, 2012

By Ellen Koronet –

“Marketing Research” is a term that seems to be tossed about in today’s frenetic business communities. In micropreneurial arenas, research about a market usually focuses on identifying competitive viability when a business is starting out. The conventional wisdom is that a good business plan clearly addresses who is in the market, how big the market is, and who is competing for the same business. This requires some form of research into the demographics, some kind of inquiry to learn about the competition, and some kind of selection of geographic or Internet-graphic boundaries to define a targeted service area.

But to be truly successful in the 2010’s, entrepreneurs must enter into engaged, interactive relationships with their customers and potential customers. The more we understand our buyers and develop trusting partnerships, the more we appeal to their sensibilities and the more likely we are to win their carefully allotted funds.

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The secret that successful corporations embrace is that satisfaction, needs, desires, motivations, and perceptions drive customers’ decisions. In order to “capture market share,” the provider must listen closely and continuously to the treasured audience. The “research” I know and love brings true depth, grit and traction to the provider/customer relationship.

Some information about any given marketplace is readily available.  Demographic statistics available through county and state governments and commerce associations, Yellow Page listings, online searches, Social Media communities, or database managers can tell a lot about a market and about the competition in that market. This type of information is called “secondary research,” and it is available to everyone, mostly at no charge. Secondary research can help focus efforts where they will be more fruitful.

However, to truly provide power to the communication engine and appeal to customers where it counts, you need first-hand insight into what the people “behind” the statistics are thinking and feeling – this is “primary research.” For no-cost primary research, many business owners and teams with limited funds turn to their reps, communities, or networks, both in-person and online. Informal questions and feedback can go a long way towards honing in on the strongest relationship possible between provider and customer.

These efforts may be admirable and even comfortably supportive, but unfortunately, the deep, sustainable answers that trigger true inspiration can only come from customized interviews and surveys, guided by an experienced and objective facilitator and designer. Like a guide on a mountain path, a seasoned professional researcher knows how to discover the best paths to the “top,” bringing tried and true equipment and expertise to ease the journey so the business owner/team can take in the scenery to the fullest.

Essentially, there are two types of primary research:

Qualitative “Focus Groups” and In-Depth Interviews provide an opportunity to “dive deep” into the minds and hearts of consumers and distributors along the entire supply chain. When a business has been incubating in an “ivory tower” of sorts, it can be a breathtaking experience to watch from behind a one-way observation mirror or online focus group “room” as small groups of potential customers share their perceptions, motivations, and inspired ideas about the key elements of the product or service (for example, a concept, packaging, advertising, price, or distribution method).

Quantitative Surveys not only “quantify” those insights, but can lead to additional discoveries, through simple cross-tabulation or statistical mapping and modeling. Surveys are helpful when the product or service team has a good idea of what resonates but is not sure which subgroups to focus on, where to place the marketing emphasis, or which advertising avenue to pursue. A carefully designed survey is invaluable when the team needs to understand subtle drivers and differentiators, for example, which counties have people with attitudes and demographics that are similar to the best or ideal customer, or even who that customer is demographically, perceptually, and behaviorally.

To engage in either form of primary research, prepare to invest time, energy, and funding, but do not hesitate to reach out to like-minded businesses.  The most creative and high-return projects can be done in collaboration, lending valuable insight and inspiration to all of the “investors” along the way.


From my perspective, primary marketing research is the opposite of “bother” – it is the fertilized garden bed that nurtures the seeds you plant to increase the odds that your garden will flourish and blossom!

Ellen Koronet
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Why Bother with Primary Marketing Research?