Primary Market Research

Cite this article as:"Primary Market Research," in The Business Professor, updated July 17, 2014, last accessed June 7, 2020,
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Primary Market Research
This video explains what is primary market researc and how it relates to market analysis.

Next Article: Secondary Market Research


Market Research

You now understand the litany of information that is important in determining whether a business idea is a feasible opportunity.  The information you acquire when conducting the feasibility analysis is not lost at the time you decide to undertake your business.  Rest assured that all of the information will be used in various ways in planning and carrying out your business operations.

Now that you understand the need for information, we turn to the methods or techniques for collecting information. Below we introduce the first of two main categories of market research (primary and secondary research) and provide you resources to carry out the activity.

Effective market research requires the ability to identify and locate necessary information. That is, you need to know what information is valuable, be able to locate the information, understand the significance of the information, and employ the information in your planning process.

Primary Research Explained

Primary research involves the first-hand collection of information by the entrepreneur.  That is, the entrepreneur observes or actively tests a given situation to derive information.  Common methods for conducting primary research include:

  • ¬Personal Interviews – Personal interviews with individuals who you assume to be part of a larger consumer group.
    • Benefits: Personal interviews are the most accurate, yet time-consuming and costly manners of conducting marker research.  They are more efficient because they allow follow-up and clarifying questions as well as the use of multiple methods of extracting information. They also allow the greatest flexibility in choosing the representative individual or group to study. Remember, the purpose is to identify the wants and needs of various groups and to associate those wants or needs with other members who possess certain like characteristics or preferences.
    • Methods: There are number of methods to carry out the personal interview.  The 3 most common are face-to-face, telephone, or mail interview.
  • Face-to-Face: This method provide the greatest benefit. There is little to no distortion in the lines of communication. The researcher can judge body language and expressions, as well as the answers to the questions.
  • Telephone: Telephone interviews are the next best method.  They allow for the greatest customization of questioning and answer follow-up. It does, however, lack the person-to-person contact benefits of a face-to-face meeting. Further, people can get anxious or frustrated by long or drawn-out interviews.  It is easier for the responder to dissociate from the questions and put less effort into answering sincerely.
  • Survey: A survey is generally done as a mail interview.  For this reason it allows for the greatest reach.  You can send interview questions to large numbers of individuals quickly and at low cost.  Further, it generally allows for very thoroughly written and explained questions and may also present sufficient time and context for equivalent answers.  However, the technique lacks the benefits of spontaneity of response that telephone and face-to-face interviews possess. Also, it is often difficult to get respondents to participate.  Those who do respond may no longer be representative of the overall market.
  • Focus Groups – A focus group allows you to test an idea (product or service) on a particular group and receive their feedback.
    • Note: When developing a new product or idea, the focus group is one of the most effective primary research methods. It has many of the benefits of a face-to-face meeting, while allowing you to conduct research on multiple individuals at the same time.  The most difficult part about using a focus group is to attract participants who are representative of the market. Using students at a university is generally the best manner of attracting representative participants. As with brainstorming, the two keys to running a successful focus group is participation and having a skilled facilitator or moderator. Both allow for the free flow of ideas while maintaining focus on the topic at hand.
  • Public Observation – Public observation allows the entrepreneur to glean information from the general habits of individual in a given situation (such as the buying trends of teenagers in the mall). 

Who Should be the Focus of Primary Research?

Primary research is used to determine who is your target market, as well as determining the preferences and characteristics of those who may or may not be part of the target market.

  • Situation 1: If you need to determine who would be interested in your product or service, you will likely address members of the public at random. You will design your research technique (questions) to identify the reason that they want or need your product or service and their level of priority.
  • Situation 2: Once you identify individuals who are part of your target market, you will want to identify the characteristics that allow them to be grouped with other similar consumers.

Types of Relevant Information

You will customize your questions to the information you seek from the participants.  Below are examples of the type of information you may seek from your research subjects:

  • Gender, race, ethnicity, age
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Location
  • Martial Status
  • Children
  • Financial Status
  • Physical Status
  • Interests
  • Habits
  • Activities and Hobbies
  • Health

Designing Research Questions

Any type of primary research requires preliminary planning. Particularly, the entrepreneur must work to develop questions that solicit the type of information desired. This task is far more difficult than it sounds.  Below are some tips for drafting a questionnaire that serves to promote effectiveness:

  • Be short and concise.
  • Make certain the question is easily understandable upon reading.
  • Always ask questions directly and in the affirmative?
  • Don’t ask “why they didn’t do something”; rather, ask “why did you do A?”
  • Make questions easy to answer. (Yes/No, with a “Why” option)
  • Don’t attempt to be coercive of the reader.
  • Don’t make questions offensive.
  • Be truthful about the intentions of the questionnaire.
  • Provide sufficient time to answer the question.
  • Don’t show emotional reaction to the answers.

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