Market research and market reports

Six tips for successful primary market research


How you conduct your primary field research will have a significant impact on the quality of the results. Keep these key points in mind when doing and interpreting your research.

1. Ask the right questions

Badly phrased questions can give you wrong answers. Avoid yes or no questions. For example, asking customers of your stationery shop if they plan to buy pens doesn't tell you what kind of pens they want.

2. Talk to the right people

Make sure you're asking the right audience. A survey at a train station will get answers from commuters, not from stay-at-home parents, if that's your target market.

3. Talk to enough people

Surveying just a few people isn't enough. Many experts recommend getting responses from at least 150 people to get a clear picture.

4. Keep research impartial

It's easy to encourage people to give the answer you want, for example, by asking leading questions or smiling at the 'right' answer. Discussions, where you're not working from a list of set questions, are particularly easy to distort. In focus groups, strong opinions from a few people can influence others.

5. Interpret results with care

You need to make sure you draw the right conclusions from your research. Bear in mind that people may distort answers in the hope of affecting what you do. For example, they might say they would buy a product if it were cheaper. Qualitative research, where you're investigating feelings and attitudes, can be particularly difficult to interpret.

6. Be realistic

Don’t ignore negative feedback. Picking only the results you like and ignoring the rest can hurt your business. Be ready to change your plans based on all the data.

If you don't have the time or skills to carry out research yourself, consider using a market research agency. Consider the question, should I use a market research agency?