3 Great Secondary Marketing Research Resources

The difference between a smart business decision and a disastrous one can come down to whether you have the right secondary marketing research on hand.

Research and data are the lifeblood of great marketing. When conducting marketing research, you can go two ways: Either you gather primary research data, which is new information specifically collected for your immediate research needs, or you avail yourself of secondary marketing research sources, which is data material collected by others and readily available in the public domain or for purchase.

The information you need may already be waiting for you.

While new and tailored to your needs, primary research can be costly and time-consuming. Moreover, you may be collecting data that is very similar or even identical to existing sources, making your efforts redundant. So it’s usually best to start with secondary marketing research sources.

Advantages of secondary marketing research:

  1. Far less expensive than primary data. Other companies may have already collected data that is available at no cost, or sold to you for much less than it would have cost you to.
  2. Fast and easy to obtain. Often, the data is sorted away on websites just a click away.
  3. Useful to design primary data research. With collected secondary marketing research on hand as a basis, you can now build your strategy to collect what you need to complement your existing data.

Secondary data is quite valuable, as it can be used for purposes such as fact finding, model building, and database marketing. Your own company may keep internal records for sales, expenses, and customers which may be useful. To identify market trends, patterns and changes, tap into the many sources already available.

A few useful sites to gather information for all kinds of topics, demographics, and markets are the following:

US Census Bureau

The US Census Bureau is the principal agency of the US Federal Statistical System, which produces all kinds of data about our society and economy. With over 5,500 employees, you have a huge staff that gathers information and the ability to keep it current. Learn about the fastest growing counties or research income and poverty levels. Curious about US retail e-commerce sales as a percent of total quarterly retail sales for the last decade? A nicely compiled PDF will give you a compelling report.


Managed and hosted by the US General Services Administration, data.gov is developed publicly on GitHub, an open source project where you can contribute. Not only will you find data sets, clearly marked with available file formats, but also news and articles that relate to all kinds of topics that pertain to our economy and life in the US. Topics such as manufacturing, health, finance, consumers, energy and many more topics are covered. Data sources are available in csv, html, xml, pdf, or zip format, depending on the kind of information produced. Thousands of data sources can also be narrowed down by state, county or zip code, making data.gov a very flexible search site to narrow down the information relevant to your needs.

Euromonitor International

Euromonitor offers over 115 million standardized statistics from around the world for topics such as consumer goods, healthcare, and travel services. Whether you want to research an industry, consumers, or other economic topics, Euromonitor’s intuitive interface offers objective views into a variety of topics to gain global and local insights. Follow trends that impact business and make your strategic decision-making easier with readily-available data.

If you want to be successful in the marketplace, conducting research is vital.

Secondary marketing research is often a way to begin, and these are just a few of the many sites to find valuable information to conduct marketing and business research. Leverage readily-available information from data sites to make your business more successful.

Market Research: Friend or Foe?

Oh come on—of course market research is our friend.

But some folks (particularly creative types) think of market research as a dastardly plot conceived by zombie hordes of humorless quants on a mission to destroy everything that is vibrant and alive in commercial communication.

Why does anybody think this?

Well, one theory is that these people are full of themselves. If I may ascend my deluxe model hardwood soapbox for just a moment, allow me to emphatically declare (using my double-stitched, Corinthian leather megaphone) that any communicator with a license to write embraces market research as a gift from the gods of marketing.

Good research does not kill good ideas.

To put it another way: If an idea seems promising at first, but then dies because market research reveals that it would not resonate with the target audience—well, that idea deserved to die. Come up with another one!

Has a genuinely brilliant idea ever been sidelined because a data-dazed researcher didn’t grasp the idea’s awesomeness? Yes, this has happened. And we in the creative community mourn those fallen concepts every single day, in a special ceremony we don’t tell anybody else about. So act like you never heard about this, because you’re not supposed to know.

But much more often, market research provides the essential raw material from which interesting communications are crafted.

As Houdini knew, you do your best work in chains.

The restrictions that research can introduce to the process of coming up with, say, a brand idea or a web video aimed at a tightly-defined audience—these restrictions are, paradoxically, liberating. We’ve all heard of the proverbial blank page that has stricken terror into writers since the days of papyrus scrolls. Well, the blank page is scary because there are just too many ways to fill it up. The creative imagination considers the infinite possibilities, and freezes.

When a researcher says “See this conceptual direction? And this one? Don’t go there. It won’t work”, a wise ideator breathes a sigh of relief. Good! Now I’ve only got to deal with 2.2 billion possible ideas, instead of, you know, infinity.

Good research versus evil research.

There is one kind of research that yields poor results. This is the kind in which a moderator presents, say, a storyboard for a television commercial to a panel of 10 people rigorously selected for their unique ability to desire $100 plus free snacks. The panel is asked to analyze something they have never, in their time on earth, spent a moment analyzing. They are asked to respond to a crude approximation of a spot—represented by drawings and a script, perhaps, or maybe with assembled stock footage. We should not expect a woman who works at a payroll processing company to be able to imagine the emotions evoked by a powerfully directed video.

In my long career, I have spent many hours behind the one-way mirror, observing the behavior of the Legion of Free Snackers. To be fair, much of what I heard was quite useful. Open-ended questions about a category or brand can reveal things about the target’s predilections that you might never have guessed. I recall, for example, attending a series of focus groups in cities across America, learning that even rich people sometimes stay at Motel 6, and they have their reasons why.

But the same people who enlightened me about their motivations for choosing the plain-but-perfectly-fine motel were also presented with some radio commercials written by my talented friend and colleague, David Fowler. These spots went on to become the first of a now-legendary radio campaign that drove millions of customers to Motel 6, and which is still charming radio listeners decades after being conceived. It’s surely one of the most successful campaigns ever. And yet, in the context of a sterile focus group room—even though stocked with M&Ms aplenty!—the assembled commentators rejected the soon-to-be famous radio commercials. They didn’t like voice talent Tom Bodett, nor his unfunny (to them) observations.

Market research shows I should end this blog now.

I could go on, and I will surely do so in another post. But my good buddies in research tell me your interest is probably flagging at this point. Am I bitter? A little. I would like to go on. But if I want you to ever pay attention to me again, I will abide by the advice of my data-obsessed colleagues.

Nielsen Media Consumption Updates

It’s long been predicted that TV and radio will lose a Darwinian battle to subscription on demand services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, etc.

The recent Nielsen Q1 2016 Total Audience Report indicates the media evolution trend is continuing, however broadcast—that’s TV and radio combined—is still the most powerful medium. For now.

TV and radio may not dominate the universe the way they once did, and statistics show they continue to lose share. But the chart below confirms their staying power as a resource to reach an audience. If you’re seeking to build awareness with the Boomer generation — who also have the deepest pockets — live TV still holds a 53% share of time spent. Combine TV and AM/FM radio (not streaming services), and you’re looking at 70% of a Boomer’s daily media consumption. Conversely, if your targets are 18-34, you’d best be paying attention to reaching them digitally and by subscription video on demand (SVOD). In fact, the average time per day spent on digital devices in this age group grew 74% in the last 2 years. But still, live television and radio claim a 46% share for the younger generation.

Somehow, AM/FM radio still hangs in there at 17%, though its audience skews older. 18-34 year olds spend an average of 10:19 minutes per day listening to radio, while 50-64 year olds top the average at 15:09.

So what does this mean for your strategic planning and your media commitments?

Broadcast is still a powerful tool to build awareness.That awareness gets translated to better engagement when customers seek your brand in digital mediums. But it’s more important than ever to be well informed, and to aim carefully before you fire off precious media dollars, because the landscape is shifting constantly.

The Bottom Line

When things get complex, applying the fundamentals of understanding how, when and where to reach your customers and prospects is more important than ever.