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Apr 29 / heathgross

Secondary Research – An Essential Piece To Any Consulting Firm

UnGoogle Yourself

Secondary research is an essential piece to any strategic consulting firm’s solution portfolio. While few would argue this statement, most experienced CI practitioners can easily forget about the foundational nature of secondary research. Without reliable and intentional secondary research, primary research will not hit its intended target and the overall project goals will not be met. Let’s look at three pieces to the secondary research puzzle.

Don’t Let Google Stop You

No, this is not going to be a rant about Google taking over the world, but about the over reliance on Google in secondary research. Now that Google basically owns online search as we know it, it can be easy to stop short of great secondary research. If you have been hiding somewhere the past few years, read this article about Google’s command of online search. What Google’s domination in online search can lead to is complacency and stagnation in secondary research. Google is a reliable starting place in the effort to ground primary research in solid secondary, but research falls short when Google is the only tool employed to cast a wide net on a topic or person. It would be like in fishing if you continued to cast a line in the same spot with the same bait every time. You may get some decent size fish here and there, but you could be missing the big fish just upstream because doing the same thing every time has gotten decent results in the past. Don’t settle for just getting some decent size “fish” here and there; be willing to go deeper and wider in secondary research.

What Else Is Out There?

While there is no doubt that Google offers a plethora of helpful and timely information, as mentioned above secondary research cannot end just at Google. Here are some sources that may get overlooked in the tendency to use Google as a crutch:

Social Media/Blogs – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook – In an effort to get noticed, people often share more than their companies would probably like.

Financial Reports – Reports provide a large amount of data tailor-made to widen one’s understanding of industry verticals and company structures as well the typical financial data associated with quarterly and yearly reporting.

Alerts – Whether you are trying to track hiring practices, website updates, or product launches, utilizing alerts can be a helpful tool to stay on top of the competitive landscape.


Fake it ‘til you Make it

This phrase has floated around for the last few years, and while ultimately it is a bad thing to base your business on, there is a principal here we can learn from. Working in the competitive intelligence industry, our clients come from any number of different industries and we need to be able to quickly adapt and gain an understanding of their business and the vocabulary associated with it. Good secondary research allows you to step intelligently into any industry and be able to then leverage your CI skillset to deliver high quality, actionable intelligence.

The point truly isn’t to be able to pretend like you know something when you are absolutely clueless, it is to highlight the fact that there is a steep learning curve on all new projects. When working in an industry where we help our clients stay ahead of their competition, there is always something new to learn about. Whether it is a competitor they hadn’t considered before that is gaining ground in the market or a new product set to launch in the next six months to a year, we have to be able to learn the most relevant industry information possible, and do it quickly. This is where having a variety of resources, and knowing which ones to leverage for specific knowledge, is key.

Getting Personal

It can be easy to think of secondary research in a dry, detached sort of way, but detailed secondary information can drive great primary conversations. People want to talk to people that they like and detailed secondary information can be helpful in deciding the best approach to take. For instance, if an opinion leader’s profile mentions they are from small town Ohio and you are too, lead with that common connection. This works with even high level sources. If you happen to find that a source has written widely on a particular topic, you may get that person warmed up by mentioning how insightful their publications have been.



As we have seen, great secondary research must incorporate more than just Google. Also, secondary research must have as its primary purpose to grant personality to primary research and gain the edge in fast adaptation with client needs and goals.

Secondary research void of thoughtfulness ends up only in market research. If the goal is strategic intelligence, then you are looking to provide actionable intelligence that is timely and thoughtful. Leveraging secondary research for that purpose will keep long-term clients and gain new ones.


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