How to collect primary data for research in business

Written by eleanor mckenzie Google
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How to collect primary data for research in business
Identify the information needed by studying published data first. (Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Business decisions require information. Many companies rely on market research to ensure that their product launch, advertising campaign or new business strategy is a success. Market researchers need two types of data: primary and secondary. Secondary data is already published statistics and market data that is available online and in business information publications. Primary data is more consuming to gather because the researcher has to use field research methods to compile it.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Secondary market or company data
  • Budget
  • Focus group facilitator

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Gather and study the secondary data first. Market reports published by Mintel for example, government statistics and articles from the specialist or financial press provide an overview of the product sector, or company league tables. The overview allows the team members to identify gaps in the data that need filled with more specific information that only primary data can provide.

  2. 2

    Select the most appropriate primary research tools for the information you need to gather. Choose from: - Sample survey - Questionnaire - Interviews - Focus groups You may need to use more than one tool. For example, you might wish to test the results of questionnaire sent to a large number of people against the views expressed in a small focus group.

  3. 3

    Choose a sample survey if you need information fast. This method typically uses a small sample group to represent the wider population. For example, female cat owners, aged 25 to 35 living in Bristol might usefully represent the views of similar women in the rest of the UK for a cat product company. Quota sampling might refine this sector further, perhaps limiting the group to women in a particular income bracket. You may need the help of a market research company to identify these people and find a way to contact them.

  4. 4

    Send out a postal questionnaire, or post one online at an appropriate website, if you want to survey a significant number of people. It is the most cost-effective method of obtaining mass statistics, but the results are not totally reliable due to the fact that people don't always complete them truthfully.

  5. 5

    Devise a set of questions for either telephone or personal interviews. Choose a structured or semi-structured approach to interviewing. The structured method has the advantage of taking a relatively short time to complete the questions, as the interviewee is given a list of responses to choose from. In semi-structured approach the interviewee is able to give responses in her own words. If you need more qualitative data, such as views on brand image, semi-structured interviews may reveal more significant information.

  6. 6

    Set up a focus group. You can hire experienced focus group facilitators if you are new to this form of market research. Sit in on the session and take notes and record what the participants say. You may need to advertise for participants and pay them a fee, as the sessions can take upwards of an hour. Focus groups are good for finding out views about a new service, or presenting a new brand and listening to what the participants have to say about its name and packaging.

Tips and warnings

  • Get help from primary research experts if you are new to this aspect of business information.
  • You don't have to pay a market research agency for primary research: a self-employed business information consultant is a viable option, which may prove more economical. Search online for consultants or contact a market research recruitment agency who may have suitable experts on file.

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