Primary Research for Competitive Intelligence

Most CI professionals are well aware that CI data comes in two forms, secondary and primary. Most are not as well-versed in the benefits and advantages that primary research brings to the CI effort. Over the next several blogs in this series, we’ll talk about when primary research should be used, what it brings, and how to do it ethically.

But let’s start with a definition of primary research and what it is.

In the CI world, primary research is broadly defined as research that was conducted by the researcher with the express purpose of gaining competitive insights from the market. This can include running a survey of customers, suppliers, and industry experts. It also allows for any kind of direct contact with the research targets, including closed-ended and open-ended telephone, internet, and in-person surveys. Primary research is broad enough to cover focus groups, panels, and mystery shopping.

As applied to CI, primary research is a data collection tool that emphasizes competitors and the competitive situation. Thus, it is more focused on gathering insight from competitor staff, suppliers, and customers. It also seeks to answer specific questions related to a decision where competitor insight is needed.

More importantly, CI-driven primary research is designed specifically to address a competitive issue. The CI professional who uses primary research does not rely on some other researcher’s efforts that may tangentially apply to the competitive situation. Rather, they are able to target the research effort on the information that is needed and get the unfiltered data right from the original source.

Primary research for CI looks and acts like a lot of other primary research. It uses the full range of primary research tools to connect with the data sources and adjusts the tools based on the goals and depth of information sought. A well-constructed primary research project shares many of the key aspects of a market research effort, gathering quantitative and qualitative information to support a hypothesis and support a decision.

Next we’ll talk about when to use primary research for CI and the benefits primary offers over other research types.

– Erik Glitman, CEO