How to find information for marketing research

Gathering Market Information
When doing marketing research you need to plan how you are going to collect the required information. Marketing Analysis and Research are the starting point of developing any successful marketing strategy. Your Marketing Analysis will be as good as the information you will gather for your analysis.

The primary marketing research (internet, publications, press releases, articles, etc.) will give you the general information you need however always the critical information you need will be available to you only through secondary marketing research. Most of the general / primary research information is public information which means that your competitors will have the same information.
Of course the differentiators factor will depend on how good you are to use that information and developing better marketing strategy and tactics compared to your competitors but let’s assume that given the same information you and your competitor both have equal skills and knowledge to develop appropriate marketing strategy. Now the differentiator factor for your marketing strategy is the secondary research information – you want to have the exact information you need to develop a better marketing strategy.
Collecting information with secondary research
Define the information you need and start planning by identifying potential instruments / alternatives for gathering the required information. The information collection instruments you will use will depend on your business and specific information you need at this point but here are some information gathering alternatives you should consider:
Email Surveys
You can use email surveys when you have a large customer base and you need to collect information from many respondents. Email Surveys are cost effective and if they are planned properly they can give you a high response rate. Try to keep your questions short and to the point so it will be easy for your customers to respond and they wont waste much time. If you can afford you should offer some incentives to your customers for giving you the information you need.
Mail Surveys
Mail surveys are similar to email surveys. The difference is that mail surveys are more expensive and the process time for collecting the information is longer. In order to get a good response rate it is sometimes helpful if you talk with your customer before they receive the surveys. For example, your sales reps can call their accounts, explain the purpose of the surveys and ask for customer feedback. Again the shorter the list of questions the better the response rate will be both in terms of quality and quantity.
Personal Interviews
If the required information has to be very accurate and you can afford the time and cost then personal interviews with your customers might be a good alternative. However when you have many customers and different people will conduct these personal interviews you need to pay attention on how you are going to structure the questions –  in the same way you develop and plan your survey questions. You have to be able to compare and measure different responses from different interviewers.
Focus Groups
Unlike surveys focus groups are typical qualitative research instrument and focus groups are more of a open ended sessions. However they should be very well planned and structured as much as possible. Focus groups offer very good information because they are group interactions. Compared to personal interviews however you do not have the same level of control over the sessions. Planning the size of your focus groups and the number of sessions is critical since you need information which will be representative from your entire customer population.
Internal Sales Research
Conducting Sales Analysis in house is a great alternative for gathering additional information. If you have a sales force you can conduct interviews, surveys and customer visits which will allow you to learn new first hand information. Account analysis can offer additional information for your marketing strengths and weaknesses as well as identify new business opportunities. If you do not have internal sales force then you can plan similar approach with your resellers, dealers, representatives, etc.