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Secondary Research

FastTrac, Kauffman Foundation

Secondary research is information already gathered for another business or purpose. This research is the easiest and least expensive to use since it is gathered and shared by other people. Examples of secondary research include information from magazine articles, books, publications, trade journals, libraries, or data collected by the Census Bureau or chambers of commerce. This information may be available in print or online. Information collected usually focuses on industry trends, customer demographics, and spending habits. If you expand your business into different markets or offer new services as part of a current business, secondary research can be very valuable.

Secondary research sources are not usually available in real-time. Sometimes information is not available for months or even a year after it is collected. Depending on when the information was collected and your purpose for the research, it may not be relevant for your business. If you have a new product or service or a niche market, secondary research information may not be available. Working with a research professional, such as a reference librarian, you can determine which sources have the most bearing on your research needs. In some rare cases, you may find that conducting primary research is the only means to collect relevant information for your business concept.

Some timely secondary research is available electronically on Web sites or in electronic databases. Looking for information on the Web, however, can require a huge time commitment. Do not waste time "surfing" for information without a plan for what you are looking for. If you don't know where to look, how to access information, or what information would be helpful, ask a librarian, a colleague in your industry, or a resource person at the Small Business Development Center. You can save time by preparing your research approach before sitting down at the computer.

It's Not All in Their Heads

It took nine months for two former Microsoft® employees to create the hottest new board game since Trivial Pursuit. Their business idea developed due to market research in a few key areas.

First, the founders recognized that a lot of intellectual capital was going into online, PC, or PlayStation®-style games instead of the board game market. Second, board games go back centuries and have endured many different competitive threats. This history gave the brainiacs confidence that board games are here to stay. Finally, when researching start-up costs, they found the level of capital required to launch a board game was significantly less than the investment required to get into the high-tech video-game industry.

When beginning primary and secondary research to flush out the concept of their "whole brain" game, the two soaked up as much knowledge as they could about the history of social games, comparing their findings against the criteria for their game. Their conclusion was to develop a left brain/right brain game, but neither knew much about the hypothesis, so they began researching the field of intellectual psychology. They discovered a Harvard researcher named Howard Gardner whose Theory of Multiple Intelligences explores eight core competencies in which people demonstrate intelligence, such as linguistic, mathematical, and spatial. This research became the design framework for the game Cranium.

The inventors identified a number of occupations that people might pursue if they are gifted in one of Gardner's intelligences. They then broke down the findings into subject matters or areas of interest that those same people would be exceptionally strong in, ensuring each player a moment to shine. In total, they came up with fourteen different activities, each one innovative in its own right.

Cranium'starget audience is made up of individuals between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five, with an attractive disposable income. Research shows that this demographic group seems to have a natural social tendency to play games such as Cranium and Pictionary. The company has spent zero dollars on marketing efforts and indicates the most effective selling tool is sitting down and playing the game. The time and energy they spent on market research in the beginning resulted in a product that nearly sells itself.

© 2007 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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