3.3.2 Secondary sources of research data
Let’s look at the secondary sources of research data in more detail.
- Internal sources: the entrepreneur’s or the firm’s existing internal records are an obvious place to start. The data is low cost, readily available and usually reliable.
- Personal contact networks: these consist of the personal contacts, relationships and alliances that entrepreneurs develop over time, and they can provide a rich source of informal information. Networks include suppliers, customers, local businesses, contacts in the trade, professional advisors (bank managers, accountants and solicitors), former colleagues, friends and acquaintances.
- Trade associations: these can be specific to a particular industry (e.g. the National Federation of Builders).
- Chambers of commerce: these are organised locally but often have links and services that extend beyond the local economy.
- Competitor sources: most businesses publish information that is actually intended for customers. However, this can also be obtained by small firms wishing to investigate a competitor’s activities. For example, accessible published information includes websites, product and service information leaflets, reports and accounts.
- Trade shows and exhibitions: these can also be good sources of competitive information – the exhibitors catalogue will provide a good summary of the existing companies in the field and the literature can be easily collected from one place. Franchisors will also give information to prospective franchisees on the prospects for their particular market, which can be obtained by new entrants who are not actually interested in taking up a franchise.
- External secondary sources: external information sources are available quickly and easily online. Entrepreneurs and small businesses can research the macro and micro-environments in considerable depth before making strategic decisions. However, do not underestimate the time and effort it takes to source secondary data that is relevant to your business.
- Other external sources: this includes central and local government, directories, published statistics and reports, and national trade and press articles. Government statistics and those published by other official bodies can have the disadvantage of being out of date and not meeting specific requirements.
Most sources of data can be accessed free of charge on the internet (or in a library) or purchased at a relatively low cost (e.g. through a subscription).
Trade associations, chambers of commerce, banks, universities and research institutions are also good sources of information for specific fields. Newspapers and periodicals, however, tend to provide more general data but can be useful for background information.