Integrated Primary & Secondary Research

1 Primary and Secondary Research

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Definition of Primary & Secondary Research

Primary Research

Primary research involves the collection of data that does not yet exist. Primary research focuses on answering questions about current trends, issues, human behaviour, or is used to reinforce secondary research. For example, a telephone survey gathering opinions on the best options for homelessness, or an in-depth interview administered with the goal to gather personal insight on the opioid crisis. It is often undertaken after the researcher has gained some insight into the topic by reviewing and analyzing secondary research.

Secondary Research

Secondary research involves the collection of data and information that exists and has already been published. Secondary research focuses on answering questions with past research studies and existing information. For example, an NPO accesses an online database to find more information about cultural differences or social norms.

Why Do Non-Profits Need to Do Research?

Marketing research is defined as the methodical design, collection, analysis, and reporting of reliable marketing information that is relevant to a particular problem faced by an organization in order to reduce uncertainty at a reasonable cost.

According to the American Marketing Association (Nonprofit Marketing, 2006), marketing research can be used to:

  • Identify and define marketing opportunities and problems.
  • Generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions that have been or will be implemented.
  • Monitor marketing strategies.

Marketing research can use either primary data or secondary data. These types of research can further your understanding of your audience, which is a key part of any marketing campaign.

Types of Research

Please review the different types of research below:

1. Direct Observation

One way to learn about people is to observe them. By observing respondents’ actions without direct interaction. This can refer to the social media sites that the audience prefers to go on, what advertisements they tend to click as so on. Usually, this information can be found within online analytics.

2. Interviews and Surveys

Because your demographic analysis will be limited to your most likely audience, your most accurate way to learn about them is to seek personal information through interviews and surveys. Interviews may be conducted face-to-face, by phone, or by written means, such as texting. They allow more in-depth discussion than surveys, and they are also more time-consuming to conduct. Surveys are also sometimes conducted face-to-face or by phone, but online surveys are increasingly common. You may collect and tabulate survey results manually, or set up an automated online survey through the free or subscription portals of sites like Survey Monkey and Zoomerang. Using an online survey provides the advantage of keeping responses anonymous, which may increase your audience members’ willingness to participate and to answer personal questions. Surveys are an efficient way to collect information quickly; however, in contrast to interviews, they don’t allow for follow-up questions to help you understand why your respondent gave a certain answer.

3. Focus Groups

A focus group is a small group of people who give you feedback about their perceptions. As with interviews and surveys, in a focus group, you should use a limited list of carefully prepared questions designed to get at the information you need to understand their beliefs, attitudes, and values specifically related to your topic.

4. Using Existing Data about Your Audience

Occasionally, existing information will be available about your audience. For instance, if you have a student audience, it might not be difficult to find out what their academic majors are. You might also be able to find out their degree of investment in their education; for instance, you could reasonably assume that the seniors in the audience have been successful students who have invested at least three years pursuing higher education.

In today’s day and age, there are a lot of online resources built into business accounts, such as Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google, that collect this observation research and relay the information back in the form of statistics. These online resources can be usually found under the settings tabs under analytics.

Once a non-profit organization has developed a needs-centred orientation, a logical next step is to engage in research to better understand how the public views the organization or on an ongoing societal issue. Effective marketing starts with a strong knowledge of your audience, that gives you unique insights into what they want and how to satisfy them better than the competition. The most reliable source of marketing information is current insights.

Understanding the point of view and demands of the public does not necessarily mean that the NPO should satisfy those wishes. Instead, it means that the NPO can develop a better understanding of its own strengths and weaknesses and if appropriate, modify aspects of the organization to better suit its audience. For example, an organization shifts the time of day on a free service that is being offered or decides to implement an additional time slot during the week so that it can better meet the public’s needs.

Quantitative Data vs. Qualitative Data

Primary Data is new information the organization gathers directly from respondents they interact with, surveys, or alternative research methods. Although primary data can be expensive to collect, it’s often extremely useful because it’s “just what the doctor ordered” to guide the organization’s thinking.  

Primary data can be either quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative research is usually based on a large-scale sample of respondents and is typically expressed in numeric terms such as averages, percentages, or statistics. Qualitative research is more open-ended in eliciting the stories, anecdotes, and descriptive words people have for products or lifestyle attributes.

Quantitative vs Qualitative Data
Quantitative Qualitative
Provides an overall picture of a general population or geographical region. It can also often be used to measure trends over time. This type of evidence is valuable for describing who, what, where, and when. Provides richer, deeper, and broader information based on a few individuals or case examples. This type of evidence is valuable for describing how and why.


This page contains material taken from:

Film and Television 6A: History of the American Motion Picture: Getting Started. (2020, July 7). Retrieved July 23, 2020, from

Lumen Learning. (2020). The Importance of Marketing Information and Research. Retrieved from Lumen Principles of Marketing:

Nonprofit Marketing. (2006). Retrieved July 31, 2020, from

Primary Market Research. (2020). Retrieved July 23, 2020, from

Sagepub (2006). Research in Nonprofit Organizations. Retrieved from

Secondary Data. (2020). Retrieved July 23, 2020, from



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An Open Guide to Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Copyright © by Andrea Niosi and KPU Marketing 4201 Class of Summer 2020 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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