What Is Primary Market Research?

July 5, 2022

Market research is the process through which companies or research organizations gather insights that impact their brands, and brand categories.

These insights can be widely varied, depending on the company’s strategic short- and long-term goals, and they can come from an equally varied number of sources. 

One form of market research is known as primary market research. This is based on data and feedback provided directly by consumers.

This can involve B2B or B2C consumer relationships, but ultimately, it is rooted in data collected from the individuals who engage with products inside a brand’s realm or company’s overall category. 

The information collected from primary market research ranges from basic demographic information to high-level consumer needs, desires, and preferences. 

Primary market research is a multi-step and iterative endeavor that requires diligence and expertise to properly execute.

It requires time, planning, experience, strategic thinking, and a discerning eye for detail to properly execute primary research in order to get the most out of your results. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss what “primary market research” encompasses in eight steps:  

  1. Identifying a need 
  2. Determining the business questions to be answered (also called “objectives”) 
  3. Deciding to keep research in-house vs. partnering with a primary market research firm  
  4. Creating a research plan 
  5. Aligning research input & instrument development  
  6. Collecting the data 
  7. Analyzing the data 
  8. Creating an action plan of next steps  

We’ll start with identifying a need.  

1. Identifying the Need


All primary market research studies originate with identifying a need.  

This step takes the form of a company observing a change in their business and a desire to discover why the change is happening.  

A “change” in this context can include a wide range of phenomena, including: 

  • Differences in consumer trends and attitudes 
  • Sales declines 
  • Shrinking market share 
  • Creating a new ad campaign 
  • New product creation, validation, and / or testing 

This is just a brief list of the different needs that a company could identify to merit primary market research.  

These are also areas that can provide opportunities for strategic initiatives, which should be at least partially supported by understanding how consumers think about or would react to any new products, campaigns, or changes a company undertakes.  

2. Determining the Questions to Be Answered

Once a need is identified, the next step is to determine the exact questions that need to be answered.  

It’s essential to brainstorm these questions with other stakeholders at your company to identify and prioritize the questions that are specific enough to yield actionable results without being so specific that you miss opportunities for learning.  

Primary market research often involves iterative testing through levels or phases of development in a project’s life span. You do not have to limit yourself to only planning one project at a time. 

3. Partnering with a Firm vs. Researching in-House

At this point, companies need to make a decision about how they pursue answers to these questions. This choice boils down to partnering with a market research firm or performing the project in-house.  

This decision is frequently impacted by the available budget, the timeframe available to the company, and the resources available to a company internally. Many companies consider these factors (among others) and discover that even with their internal capabilities, they may not have the expertise in-house that could guarantee reliable results.  

Other times the decision to partner with a research firm is due to the need for an impartial party conducting the research and being comfortable delivering accurate insights whether they are what the company wanted. Or an outside research firm is used for the breadth d depth or research expertise they provide.  

These are the biggest reasons that so many companies contact third-party market research firms.  

Choosing to partner with a primary research firm has a number of benefits. These firms conduct primary research studies as part of their daily work, and it becomes second nature to them. They know exactly how to find the answers to your questions in the most effective and efficient way possible. They also take the heavy lifting off your plate by acting as an extension of your team, handling all of the research and operational aspects of a project. 

Reaching out to a market research firm is as simple as filling out a brief request for proposal (RFP) or discussing these points in a conversation: 

  1. Background information about how the company arrived at a need for a market research study 
  2. Questions that the study is intended to answer 
  3. A description of which groups feedback would be important to your decision 
  4. The timeframe in which you need results from the study 
  5. The available budget, even if it is a general range 

Once your RFP is created, you can send it out to as many research firms with which you may work in the future or the few you contact regularly for guidance. This often entails a series of meetings with the different firms until your company decides to work with one specifically.  

Then, you can start planning together.  

4. Creating & Selecting a Research Plan


A research plan is the detailed blueprint of how your team and your research partner will acquire the answers to your business’s questions.  

Research plans often include the following factors: 

  • The research methodology (or methodologies) that will be used 
  • What specific issues will be addressed 
  • What questions you can expect to be answered 
  • An explanation of each methodology 
  • The criteria of consumers to be interviewed and / or surveyed 
  • The quantity of consumers to be interviewed and / or surveyed 
  • An overview of the final deliverable 
  • The cost and timeframe associated with the study 

This is the time when you will also meet the individual researcher(s) who will plan and execute the study, giving you the chance to ask questions about their specific experience and expertise.  

It’s important for researchers to have a prolific background of market research work, in addition to a penchant for staying up-to-date with changes in the industry.  

At this point, once all internal stakeholders are aligned either with an internal research plan or have selected a partner research firm, it is time to initiate the project with aligning on your research inputs.  

5. Aligning Research Input & Instrument Development

Once your company has partnered with a firm, the next step is to get started with an official kickoff meeting to ensure everyone is aligned on the project and requirements.  

This is also a great opportunity for any internal stakeholders — especially those who may not be directly involved with the project — to ask questions prior to the project’s launch.  

Kickoff meetings also include a list of final “next steps” that the market research process will follow. 

The questionnaire, discussion guide, or similar document will contain the questions presented to consumers that will provide the data a company needs to answer its original questions.  

It’s important for the wording to be done in a way that is clear without being leading, direct without giving away the reason behind the study, and simple enough for a participant to complete.  

This applies whether you are building a question outline that will be asked during a focus group, or an in-depth quantitative survey that consumers will self-complete. A well-developed questionnaire should always have a logical flow and allow a reviewer to clearly identify the purpose/reason behind each question.  

Once a questionnaire is finalized and has approval from all stakeholders, a company will be ready to move to the next phase of market research — collecting the data.  

6. Collecting the Data


Data collection is the phase of market research where an expert begins gathering data from your consumer target group(s). This part of the process can look very different depending on the methodology being utilized.  

For example, a quantitative study typically takes the form of an online survey given to an existing community of individuals who meet a company’s target audience demographics.  

In a qualitative study, data collection can involve recruiting target consumers to speak with a trained research moderator in small groups (also known as focus groups), or in a one-on-one interview. 

There is a myriad of possible methods that a market research firm could pursue to gather data. This is why it’s so important to work with senior-level market research experts, as they can advise the most appropriate method to leverage and build the best questionnaire to address your business needs.  

Regardless of the method that’s used, the outcome remains the same: a rich and detailed data set that holds the keys to unlock your business’ next steps. 

However, the data on its own is not the end result of a primary market research project.  

To get the most out of the data, it’s imperative that a researcher focuses their full attention on the next step — analysis.  

7. Analyzing the Data


Once a market research firm, or your internal research team, has gathered their data, the next step is analysis.  

In this scenario, primary research experts will take the time to comb through the data provided and identify answers to the company’s original questions.  

In addition, a skilled researcher will also keep an eye out for any “surprise” trends that are unexpected, but still helpful for a company to know.  

The analysis process requires significant time because a researcher looks at and categorizes every single answer, including both qualitative and quantitative data points.  

This, in turn, gives them the information they need to identify trends, outliers, and other noteworthy pieces of information to later present in their report.  

A report can be a simple, one-page document that summarizes key points from the data collected, all the way up to a premium presentation complete with data visualization. These visualizations can include any number of different models and techniques that communicate the value of the data that was earned in the previous step.  

Once the report is completed, the researcher will typically present the findings to all internal stakeholders.  

This will also include answers to the original business questions that the company created in the first and second step, along with any surprising findings that emerged during the analytical step.  

Once all critical findings have been presented, this brings us to the final step – what to do with the information that has been learned. 

8. Creating an Action Plan of Next Steps


With the bulk of the primary market research process completed, the final steps are to analyze the data, uncover the trends, document the insights, and present it.  

Some organizations choose to only involve one specific internal team for strategic planning, but others include their research team as well (whether they are internal or external partners). 

Doing this is helpful because the researcher is the orchestrator of the entire study, and their expert background can help identify actionable items that a company may otherwise miss without their objective expertise.  

The end result is a concrete list of recommendations that a company can pursue to minimize the risk of their overall approach to their market.  

What is definitely worth keeping in mind: If this is just one phase of a longer-term or iterative project, the researcher should be involved in conversations for next steps since their knowledge of the learnings from this phase will most certainly inform how the next phase looks and should be structured. 

With these recommendations offered to the company, the process for the phase or project is concluded.  

What Makes 360 Market Research Different? 

The idea of “primary market research” may sound like you get the same thing from any company with which you work. But the truth is that there are substantial differences working with a boutique agency. 

Researchers on our team have had the opportunity to work at both large and small market research firms. We’ve worked with a wide variety of techniques that have helped brands — both large and emerging — to bring new products to life and solve issues.  

These are some of the differences you can expect when working with our team at 360MR.  

  • Provide creative freedom allowing researchers to immerse themselves in a company’s product category, industry, and even competitors.  
  • Ensure every single detail is correct prior to pursuing a study. 
  • Highly collaborative culture and embrace third parties as well, in the event that your company works closely with a partner agency of some kind. 
  • Go the extra mile to ensure that clients are only matched with senior-level researchers, meaning your company will never be given to a junior or right-out-of-college professional. You’ll only work with experienced experts here.  
  • Our team is packed with professionals who can not only get important data, but also articulate the insights that are crucial to a company’s next steps following a market research study.  
  • You’re always paired with a senior-level professional who has years of research under his or her belt, ensuring you get the expertise you need to get the answers that help your business navigate today’s fluctuating marketplace. 

Altogether, this makes us much more flexible and agile. 

Are You Ready to Launch Your Study? 

Does your company have business questions that need answers from consumers?  

Are you seeing changes in your audience that you can’t explain?  

A primary market research study is an excellent next step for you!  

If you’re ready to get answers, we’re ready to partner with you.

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