Is Secondary Now Your Primary?Posted: August 7, 2015
August 7, 2015
One of the trends driving the digital age is the ability to store and then access vast (and growing) amounts of data, including digitized publications, access to government filings, and more. For those of us doing competitive intelligence (CI) research, this is a welcome situation, as it expands the raw data that our secondary research allows us to delve into to develop intelligence. But this carries with it a problem.
A problem? Actually, two problems.
The first is becoming so overwhelmed with raw data so that an analyst cannot manage to review all of it. While we think of this as primarily a problem with governmental data sweeps, it is becoming more of an issue for those of us in CI.
The second is that there is a danger that those doing this research tend to drift away from doing primary research – that is, actually talking to people.
And talking to people, or elicitation interviews, is hard work. You have to identify who you want to speak with, which usually requires significant secondary research, then contact them. If you get through, you must then convince them to talk with you, in an interview where you have a very limited time to extract critical nuggets of data.
As those who do this a lot know, you have to identify 10-20 people to speak to, and from them, perhaps 2-3 will even speak to you. And of those, perhaps 1 in 5 or 1 in 10 will actually provide you with that nugget.
Hard work? Yes, which is why more and more CI analysts and CI DIYers do less and less of this. They go after the low-hanging fruit because dealing with that takes up most of their time, possibly pretending that it takes all of their time. So they tend to minimize (or ignore) elicitation as a critical source of data. And that trend is growing.
But these elicitation interviews often produce the gold nuggets that make the difference between a generic look at a competitor and generating real, competitively important, insights.
And primary research is where you more often can find out what will be going on; secondary is where you usually find out what was and is going on.
 This does not even take into account the barriers created by employers who have policies which may bar talking with current or former employees of competitors. For those firms, elicitation is something that must be contracted out.