Is finding market research data to answer your business questions easier than you think?
Irrespective of what market research methods, tools or techniques you’re using, these data sources will help you better understand and reach customers.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many are readily available and quick to access. Some are downright staring you in the face. And many are free.
Use this Ultimate Checklist of Where to Source Market Research Data.
Organized in a modern format these market research data sources considers; where data resides in organizations (of all sizes), and where we can learn in this digital world. (The traditional way of organizing market research is included for reference.)
Remember “all is data”: there is learning hidden in many corners, some of which are in full view.
1. Your Internal Brains
This is one of the richest and most readily available sources of research data. It doesn’t require a budget; only time and the ability to ask.
Customer service, technical support and sales colleagues are familar with customers questions, influencers and more. Each group has it owns nuance; none represent your typical customer persona. Technical support, for example, never talks to happy satisfied customers. So ensure you note the information source.
Ask each department/person where additional information is to be found. You may well discover previous projects, systems, and data repositories you never knew existed!
Who within your organization engages with customers and prospects?
Go and listen to them.
2. Digital Research Data Sources
With so much digital data available, this is a rich data source. While it may not answer exactly how many roads you need to walk down, people underestimate what questions can be answered by internal existing data sources and third party internet data.
This is a great shame as it’s typically faster and less expensive to use existing data sources.
a). Internal Research Data Sources
Your Web Analytics
As the single most important sources of learning and research for marketing communications, this is where the rubber meets the road. It answers many questions including:
- how are people finding your website
- what do they do when they’re on-site
- which aspects of the website are most valuable
- how your marketing campaigns are performing
- and much much more
Data sources within web analytics include:
- Website Analytics Clickstream Data: while there are others Google Analytics provides a rich source of trended data. It’s free and more than adequate for most website.
- Heatmaps are also useful.
- On-site (and for SaaS offers in-product) Feedback
- Experimentation & Testing Data; such as A/B testing, and conversion rate optimization software.
Technical Support & Help Desk Analytics
For getting an overall handle of customer concerns this is a rich source of data. If this is a already available within your organization it’s well worth getting this sorted.
Tip: start with paper if you have to but there are loads of SaaS non-contract options.
Very useful for helping you understand what the situation is with leads and existing customers. Strong teamwork with your sales folks is critical here.
Finance, Sales and Order Tracking
Other Business Intelligence Tools
Department-specific IT tools and resources
With the proliferation of Software as a Services (SaaS) offers for all sorts of business challenges, you may well find data sources you never even knew existed.
b). Third Party Market Data Sources
As with learning from your colleagues and team, using this market research source doesn’t require a budget; only time, imagination, and smarts.
To help you explore the breadth, variety and quantity of searches real people are doing online, there are keywords, or rather keyphrase, planning tools. These are wonderful sources of secondary data for all stages of understanding and reaching customers.
Official Public Statistics
Almost every country has a central statistics office with excellent quantitative data that uses rigorous best practice in data gathering and analysis.
There are lots of sources of excellent governmental public data; in my experience this is the single most underutilized external source of market research information.
Industry, Trade & Governmental Research Reports
Google “open data” <your domain/industry/knowledge-gap>. The search capabilities within these data sets is improving all the time.
Not only the public website but also financial, marketing, sales and support materials are easy to obtain and fast learning vehicle.
Product Analysis Pro Tip: read the user’s manual / help. What is well explained, quick and intuitive? What’s painful?
Tip to search within a single site type
- For example to search for “jane morgan” on the 3xe digital site type: site:3xedigital.com jane morgan .
Industry and Mainstream Publications, Magazines and Forums.
What are the main stream publications in your market sector?
If you are not familar with these, go back to step one (internal brains) which will shed light on same. Wikipedia has a nice list professional and trade magazine by business sector.
Research On Social Networks.
Consider not only your own social media analytics but also the public social network research capabilities.
Facebook Audience Insights, is great for market size and LinkedIn Search for getting a handle on job descriptions and more. There is also Twitter Advanced Search, and a myriad of social media tools and third party research offerings.
Google includes reviews on local search and maps. Reddit and Amazon (to name just a few) house rich sources of customer feedback. Ask yourself: who is the TripAdvisor for my industry?
Tip: Make sure to read competitors’ reviews also.
It has never been easier to do surveys online. Once you know what you’re looking for and who to ask, this wonderful approach puts numbers behind the ‘discovered’, qualitative market research.
Unfortunately it’s terribly common to ask poor questions and to generate piles of useless, i.e. inactionable, data. Online surveys typically come after you’ve analysed the internal, (existing) digital and in-person data sources.
Very brief open-ended online questionnaire may well make up some of your early data sources. Only undertake larger scale surveys once you know what to ask.
Tip: If the first method of learning suggested is “let’s do a survey” be very nervous. Remember, asking “why” five times, is your best friend.
4. In-Person Market Research Data Sources
Get up close and personal.
With so much digital information available, don’t forget to get out into the real world and talk to people. It takes more time (and sometime a significant budget) to undertake this kind of learning. But it also provides an opportunity to answer your very specific questions filling in the knowledge gaps.
It’s the ultimate primary data source. “Voice of the customer” is critical in new product development and exploratory understand. Talking to people allows you to “optimize on the fly”; or in other words ask, “why is that?” There’s more on selecting customer selection in market research here.
Be well prepared with a solid discussion guide, then adjust your questioning as the conversation meanders into unknown and innovative territory.
Methods to collect data from in-person data sources include:
Face to Face Product / Website Usability Testing
Here’s a bunch of free resources and guidance on face to face usability testing.
Interviewing Disappointed Customers
A scary one? Unpleasant conversions with customers can be a rich source of ideas. There’s nothing like “hearing it from the horse’s mouth” or “walking a mile in your customers’ shoes”.
Buckle up. You’re a big girl/boy now.
Tip: Bring a notebook so you can frown at the page during particularly difficult moments.
Conferences / Events / Tradeshows / Meetups
A quick way to get familar with new market segments is to choose a few conferences and ‘walk the show’.
Tip: don’t discount local conference and free meetups for information learing on who’s respected in the industry, common challenges and additional data sources. It’s also nice to make contacts.
Voice of the Customer Interviews
Perhaps one of the richest sources of qualitative data discovery is available from well structured ‘voice of the customer’ research.
With so many market data sources that are easy to use, free, accessible, and rich, what are you waiting for? There’s no substitute for understand customers and your market place.
If there is a market research data source missing from this list, please drop me a line: Jane at JEM 9 dot com.
Traditional Market Research Types
The traditional method of talking about market research includes the four complementary options below. While useful they mix sources of data with data collection methodologies. For businesses, I have found the list of market research data sources above provides a faster, more accessible start to data collection.
Primary & Secondary Research Defined
Secondary research takes advantage of available data sources applied to a new situation; typically you explore the secondary information first because it’s less expensive (or even free), and already available.
Qualitative Research Defined
Qualitative methods examine the why and how of decision making as well as the what, where, when, or who.” Wikipedia.
Results are similar to case studies; specific detailed examples which paint a vibrant picture. Typically qualitative research ‘explores’ the space, and comes before quantitative research.
In marketing and business qualitative answers questions such as:
- why did customers click on the blue button?
- how do customers use alternative solutions?
- what does the customer environment look like?
- what alternative to our solution do prospects consider?
Quantitative Research Definition
Quantitative research attempts to valid theories using larger representative samples. It’s about counting ‘how many’. It enables generalizations about similar groupings.
Following qualitative ‘exploratory’ research, use quantitative research to firm up theories.
In marketing and business it answers questions such as:
- how big is this market segment?
- how many customers fit this description?
- how many customers use this feature?
- which call to action results in more sales?