How to Evaluate External Secondary Data

secondary data.jpegWhen utilizing secondary data to help make important marketing decisions, failing to check the reliability of that data could lead to inaccurate analyses and poor business decisions.

With today’s accessibility to data via the internet, anyone can publish anything from anywhere, so not everything posted online can be trusted. In order to ensure the accuracy and validity of any external secondary data, you should follow an evaluation process.  

During your evaluation process, consider the following factors:

  • The data provider’s purpose
  • The data collector
  • When the data was collected
  • How the data was collected
  • What data was collected
  • Whether this data relate to other data

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Secondary Data

Consider the following six questions when evaluating the next data you find before using the results in your own business decisions.

What was the research provider’s purpose in presenting the data? Based on why the data is presented, the provider might have had a biased reason to post the information. Commercial businesses and even political parties post information online that might favor them in some way or represent their own interests. Because of this, the information you believe will help your company might not be 100% accurate.

Who collected the data? Reliability of data can be impacted by who collected it. Data from a government agency is going to be much more reliable than data found on a personal website or blog. With market research reports, make sure you are digging deep to find out which publishers are involved to ensure you are working with a widely recognized brand name.

When was the data collected? Time is one of the most important aspects of accuracy. If you are researching the hottest food trends for your restaurant, trend analysis from three years ago will not help you. Check the dates on all of your data so you know you have the newest and most relevant information available.

How was the data collected? This is especially important when using data directly related to consumer’s opinions and needs. If you know how the information was collected, then you will be able to tell which methods were used. This can also inform you if the data is related to the population you need knowledge on.

What type of data was collected? Not all of the secondary data you read is going to be applicable to your research goals. If you need data on mobile internet usage, a report on all internet usage is going to be too broad for your specific needs. There are research specialists you can partner up with to ensure the reports you want to purchase are going to be effective in answering your market research questions.

Is the data consistent with data from other sources? If you happen to see specific facts varying from source to source, you need to research which answers are most accurate. Utilizing external data is only going to benefit you if it is correct. Take the time to check that your source is reliable so you can trust the data they are providing you.

Asking these six questions is going to help you in making sure you use the most accurate data for your business needs. We all can search for data online today, but getting reliable data is the difference between making a successful or unsuccessful business decision.

For more information on using market research to develop effective business strategies, download our free white paper on the importance of market research for decision making.

The Importance of Market Research for Validation and Decision Making

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