Data Collection: High-Cost Secondary Research Tutorial

As we saw in the Data Collection: Low-Cost Secondary Research tutorial, there are many sources marketers can turn to in order to obtain research information. However, while research seekers can get lucky finding information through inexpensive means, the realty is that, in many situations, locating in-depth, numbers-related market information is difficult and expensive. Companies in the business of producing market metrics are mostly doing so to make money and do not give the information away for free. Consequently, in many research situations, especially those in which reliable market estimates are critical, acquiring the best researched market information requires a fee.

Expensive sources of information generally include accessing reports from the originators of the research, such as market research firms. However, since gaining access to good research can be costly, on the surface it may not seem practical for small companies or individuals to take advantage of these sources. Yet, research seekers also know that the level of detail available in a single report may be enough to provide answers to most of their questions in which case these reports can be real time savers (though marketers are cautioned against relying on a single source for information to make marketing decisions).

Also, while the cost of reports can appear prohibitive, today’s reports are much more accessible than in the past when research suppliers required clients to sign up for high-priced subscription services. Purchasing a subscription would then give the client access to a large number of reports. Today many information sources permit the purchase of single research reports without the requirement to commit to a subscription.

In this tutorial we look at high-cost market research sources that include:

  • Market Research Companies
  • Financial Services Companies
  • Consulting Firms
  • Research Distributors

It should be noted that some of these sources may make a limited amount of material available for free so it is worth a look no matter how much money the research seeker has to spend.

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Many companies engaged in market research services offer both customized research activities (i.e., produce work only for a single paying client) and commercial research (i.e., produce work that nearly anyone can buy). Commercial reports produced by reputable firms are generally well-researched and contain extensive product/industry metrics and statistics, including forecasts and trend analysis. Often these reports are produced by a specific researcher who has been following the market/industry for many years and produces regular updates which include offering comments and insight that go beyond the numbers.

But these reports come with a high price tag. It is not uncommon to pay a large sum for a report that is only a hundred or so pages long. However, as we noted earlier, many research reports are updates of existing reports. The older reports may be available for lower cost.

The Internet has made it convenient for market research firms to sell reports, including single copies, directly through their website However, several of the leading firms do not offer an e-commerce purchase option for single research reports. Instead, these firms continue to follow a subscription model where clients are required to purchase of service agreements in order to gain access to many reports.

Consulting firms consist of individuals who specialize in particular business areas such as by job function (e.g., human resource management), business need (e.g., strategy development) or industry (e.g., transportation). In addition to working for individual clients, consulting firms also produce reports covering their specialties that are made available to the general public. By and large the bigger the consulting firm the more valid and reliable are the reports they produce.

One group of companies to consider as a starting point is large accounting firms. Nearly all the major accounting firms now have divisions focused on management consulting. These divisions regularly make available industry reports.

Financial institutions, such as brokerage firms and other financial consulting firms, are also in the business of producing original research. Financial firms assist investors by offering research reports presenting the financial firm’s take on an industry or company including providing market metrics.

While such reports may be free to a broker’s clients, many reports can also be purchased by non-clients through financial portal websites.

The market research business consists of a large number of suppliers who make available many products (i.e., research studies and other documents) targeted at many buyers. To get research into the hands of buyers, the creators of the research can attempt to sell the products themselves or they can enlist the services of companies that serve an intermediary role (i.e., bring buyers and sellers together). For their services these dealers receive a percentage of the sale price.

For research seekers these dealers offer several advantages. First, they generally carry reports from many different suppliers increasing the likelihood of finding a report that meets the researcher’s needs. Second, they allow for the purchase of individual reports and in some case pieces of reports, whereas market research creators often require clients to purchase a full report. Third, they offer excellent search functionality making it easy to locate reports.