Do your own research. Mine your own insights.

As a media agency, the first place we research our audiences is often large, syndicated research studies from the likes of Simmons, MRI, or MARS—otherwise known as secondary research. These sources are good at allowing us to quickly get to a target demographic, its psychographics, and media usage. While this is a great way to start, these sources only paint a two-dimensional portrait of the target. To truly understand the audiences’ needs, desires, and behaviors, we have to delve into primary research.

But who has the time or budget for that?

Luckily, there are a few tricks and tools that marketers with little time and a shoestring budget can use to better understand their audience.

Digital Surveys. There are a host of digital surveys that can quickly provide insight into a target audience. All you need is 24 hours and up to a few thousand dollars. Most digital survey websites will provide assistance with setting up the survey and offer multiple types of responses, including video. Two that we use the most are and

Quick 1-1 Interviews or Focus Groups. Another great source for down and dirty primary data is to quickly interview anyone you can find that fits your target profile. Grabbing family, friends, or coworkers for a 10-15 minute conversation about the product will do in a pinch—and can shed valuable insight into how consumers approach the decision journey.

Store Visits. If your product is available in a retail location, seek it out. Take note of where the product is placed on the shelf, and observe how shoppers interact with it. Do they walk right up and take your product off the shelf, or do they peruse a bit before selecting it? If your brand is a retail location itself like a grocery store or fast food restaurant, be sure to visit as many locations as you can.


Primary research doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. These simple techniques can help you uncover insights with more impact than blind demographics. Just remember, whenever you conduct primary research, it’s important to craft the survey or discussion guide in a manner that doesn’t lead people to a specific answer. Keep your questions neutral, and provide a comfortable environment where people feel than can speak honestly. The more honest your answers, the better insights you’ll get.

Mike DiCaprio
Mike DiCaprio

Director of Communications Planning
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