Six Great Primary Research Methods for Startups

Primary research allows you to connect directly with your target market to understand their needs better. There are a number of different types of primary research and using a combination of these will give your business the best chance of success.

In-depth interviews – One on one interviews, either in person or over the phone, offer the ability to delve into specific areas of interest that come out during the conversation with interviewees. Using a set questionnaire, interviewers can help to ensure the participants fully understand the questions and can ask follow up questions based on the responses.

One on one interviews are more time consuming to conduct and it is more difficult to find people willing to spare their time to take part. On the plus side, in-depth qualitative interviews offer people the opportunity to explain the rationale behind their responses and can provide color to help explain other statistical analyses.

Feedback forms – Once you have some customers, feedback forms, whether physical or digital, offer a chance to see what your clients like or dislike. Feedback from customers generally should be welcomed, but from disgruntled customers it should be cherished and seen as an opportunity to improve your business. It is important that you make an effort to track this data over time.

Online surveys – Online surveys are suitable for collecting qualitative or quantitative data from large numbers of people in a relatively short space of time. It is also possible to collect data across a wide number of countries. Online surveys are more suited to analysis of closed questions than open qualitative responses. These types of surveys can be relatively inexpensive to conduct due to limited manual intervention required.

If you are conducting online surveys you won’t have the chance to explain what key terms mean, and you run the risk that people will respond to the question differently based on their interpretation of the terms used. This could subsequently skew your analysis and cast doubt over the validity of your findings. On the plus side this mitigates the potential for interviewer bias.

Having a list of the key terms and the associated definitions written out and available to the survey participants can help to mitigate this risk.

Postal surveys – Postal surveys were popular prior to the proliferation of the internet and offer similar benefits and drawbacks to online surveys. They are however more expensive and more time consuming to conduct.

Observation – Observation techniques involve watching how people behave in a particular environment and recording their actions. Observing your target market or your competitors can provide valuable insight. Observation is a great way of measuring things such as footfall of a particular location and perhaps comparing the viability of two potential sites.

You can stand outside the store or location for a set amount of time at different times of day with a tally counter to get a sense for the size of your potential market in that location. Repeat the exercise in different locations to get a sense for which has the most footfall.

Remember that footfall isn’t the only thing you should consider when choosing a premises, it may be that one location has lower footfall but the passersby are more affluent with more disposable income. Understanding these intricacies in your target demographic can have huge implications for your business down the line.

Observation can also cover other less tangible things with regards to competitor analysis. This could include simply looking at how your competitors do things, how their stores are laid out, how they interact with their customers etc.

Focus groups – Focus groups are a great way to test market perception of a product or service and stimulate conversation among a group of people. They are particularly good for testing toys or games, that require people to interact with each other, but they can be applied more widely. They have the benefit of people reconsidering their opinion of something and seeing something in a slightly different light based on the thoughts of someone else in the group.

This also has negative connotations however, as people may not offer their honest opinion if they are susceptible to peer pressure. Certain demographics are more prone to this type of bias, in particular children. Focus groups are often seen on shows such as The Apprentice, where the candidates take their product to a group of people to get feedback from potential customers.

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