What is Desk Research?
The phrase “desk research” is almost deceptively simple. Almost. However, what that phrase doesn’t tell you is how, with a few simple ideas on your side, you can use this technique to make your work succeed beyond any expectations.
So, what is it?
There are two types of research: primary research, or field research, which consists of interviewing, surveying, and compiling direct numbers; and secondary, which is information compiled from primary sources. Desk research is another term for secondary research, and for most small businesses and start-ups, it’s critical.
A desk research gives you the benefit of the hard numbers of primary research without needing to create that data in the first place, and best of all, you can learn exactly what you need to know to find what’s relevant to you and your partners.
Nothing begins without first doing your homework. Secondary research is a cost-effective way to gather information, see what work has already been done in each area, and to both ensure you know your business thoroughly and to anticipate your client’s needs.
How to Conduct Desk Research
When you begin your research, you need two things: a very clear idea of what you’re looking for, and a critical eye. Research should always be conducted impartially. Without an objective stance, any project undertaken without a clear understanding of the external marketing environment diminishes its chances of success significantly. Remember, this research wasn’t conducted with your business in mind, so you’ll need to be ruthless with what you use and how.
It’s a good idea to structure your research, beginning, most importantly, with keywords and search terms from your problem statement, research question, or theoretical framework. Using these, you’ll be able to find relevant research from reliable sources, relying as much as possible on data from recognized research groups.
That way, you can ensure that you use the most relevant web searches, industry reports, and online platforms to reap the rewards of having solid data, gathered by reputable researchers, to help you avoid common pitfalls or reinventing the wheel.
How Desk Research Can Influence Your Project Outcome
Desk research is crucial for at least three major reasons.
- First, it gives you the necessary background to save time, energy, and resources, and you might learn about older work that you can use.
- Second, users and stakeholders will be able to tell when you’ve done your homework – and when you haven’t.
- Finally, failing to prepare is disrespectful of everyone else’s time. You don’t want to waste users’ time on problems that could have been anticipated with a bit of forethought.
So, with that in mind, here are a few ways desk research can directly impact your work.
Better Analyzing the External Marketing Environment
Some projects require tailor-made research, but much of bricks and mortar of secondary research marketing is good old-fashioned public statistics. Many companies also publish the facts and figures of both their operations in industry reports, as well as making them free to the public.
Desk research can reveal changing tastes, trends, consumer concerns, and can allow a researcher to gain insight into the regulations and the state of a given industry.
Gathering Customer Information
Just as important as understanding your project inside and out is knowing your customers.
Desk-based research methods can reveal who your target market is, what kind of customers regularly buy your product, and how better to tailor your marketing to them to retain steady customers and attract new ones.
Identifying New Ground for Primary Market Research
One of the greatest advantages of desk-based market research is revealing gaps in existing knowledge. By noting and assessing these gaps, needed primary research is identified.
Although desk and field research are distinct, it’s this relationship between them that can be one of the best ways to determine strategy, identify future research, and aid in gathering and analyzing customer data.
Informing Internal Analysis
On the obverse of finding out more about your market and your customers, desk-based research can improve your understanding of your company’s position in the marketplace and identify strengths and weaknesses.
If, for example, your company produces automotive electronics, and your competitors have a 30% larger inventory, you might conclude that you need to expand your range.
But – if you conducted further secondary research and found that only 50% of that competitor’s inventory was selling consistently, it might tell you that you’re saving operating costs with a leaner product range – or even that you can trim back further to focus on those items which generate profit and return business.
Identifying New Markets
Using secondary research is an excellent way to identify new opportunities for expansion among areas or demographics that are under-serviced, untapped, or even undiscovered.
Look at our hypothetical electronics company again. Say, you found that reliable replacement parts for a model of onboard computer for commercial trucks were in short supply and high demand due to heavy use, and those components are exactly what your company specializes in. By using desk research to seek out specific information and using precise search parameters, you can identify areas that will launch your project to a new level of success.
The key to any obstacle is to know how to get around it. A drop-in sale, excessive competition, disrupted supplies, and sales, can all be addressed at desk level before any more serious action is taken.
By using desk research, you can identify trends and hard data that will give you a broader picture of whatever issue is at hand, and help you determine the best way to overcome a challenge.
Informing Good Decision-making
The point of conducting desk research is to gather information. However, you’re not conducting it for fun, but to then deploy that knowledge in making decisions to benefit your short and long-term strategies.
For example, desk research marketing will tell you whether there’s enough information in the first place and could influence your decision to conduct some primary research to fill in those areas.
Advantages of Desk Research Methodology
- Time and Cost-effective Desk research reports are usually far more cost-effective than conducting primary research, and saves you time by potentially identifying data that already exists to suit your needs
- Comprehensiveness Research conducted by academic and government groups is usually very extensive, and only needs to be carefully examined to find relevant data.
- Analysis of Primary Research The use of desk research methodology helps to identify shortcomings and effectiveness of primary research and can act as outstanding feedback to direct future field research.
Desk based research methods not only has several advantages for businesses of any size but can also give your project the edge it needs to deliver above expectations. The clear benefits of its reduced cost and time consumption, combined with its ease of access to a wide array of datasets for researchers, demonstrate their appeal.
It isn’t entirely easy – less knowledgeable researchers will often claim that there is no information for projects that are on the cutting edge. But with careful application of search tactics, information can be compiled that will keep you right there on edge with your project.
So, know your company and your product, know your target market, talk to your stakeholders, and secondary research can be one of the most powerful tools on your side. If you don’t have time to do so, you can hire an expert company like Research Optimus to help yourself.
– Research Optimus