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Secondary source strategy best practices

Best practices for creating a secondary source strategy that works

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We can discuss the importance of a secondary source strategy, use cases for it, and even mistakes that people make when using secondary sources – but at the end of the day, what teams really need to know are the best ways for creating an effective, efficient, comprehensive, and practical strategy that they can use.

The good news is that the best practices for developing a good source strategy are straightforward. The challenging part is that, without the right tools and processes, it can be labor-intensive and time-consuming to set up and maintain. Regardless of your tooling and workflow, these best practices are crucial in getting the most out of your secondary sources.

5 best practices for setting up an effective source strategy

Best practice #1: Define the questions you’re answering

Research is meant to answer a question or questions. Secondary research for market intelligence, competitive intelligence, product marketing, and others on go-to-market teams is no different. 

In the rush to get information, this can be easy to forget. However, the questions that the business is asking are at the core of why you are even developing a secondary source strategy to begin with. 

Before you attack what you’re going to look at, you’ll need to understand why and what you’re going to look for. Find out the questions that you’ll be answering – they will probably be similar to the market research questions that you’d ask customers, with more goal-oriented and strategic queries thrown in. 

Best practice #2: Determine your topics and keywords

Next, you’ll need to define the focus of your research. Some of this will be clear based on your industry and competitors, but don’t be afraid to get creative. What’s truly important as you define the topics and keywords you’ll be looking at is that you don’t try and investigate everything at once.

That might sound like it flies in the face of advice we’ve already given. However, going wide in terms of sources is not the same as going wide in terms of topics. If you narrow the focus on sources, you’re sure to miss something. If you include too many topics in a single search, you’ll be overwhelmed. If you are expansive in both, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and miss things.

Your source strategy should be iterative. Investigate each topic on its own. Yes, you’ll want to pull together information from across your topics of interest – but that will be in your insights and intelligence development work. First, you need to discover the information so that you can get to those insights.

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This is why, within Cronycle, we limit the number of topics that you can include in a single feed. While you can have many feeds and can include a variety of keywords and even your own RSS feeds and sources like newsletters, each feed is laser-focused on a specific topic or a small set of related topics.

Best practice #3: Filter results based on intent

A topic – like biomedical technology or sustainable packaging for food – can be looked at from any number of different perspectives. Given the questions you’re trying to answer, you’ll likely want to examine your chosen topics from multiple perspectives.

For instance, if your topic is environmental building technologies, you may want to filter that by different types of building materials, innovations and advancements, new construction vs. restoration or remodeling, and so on. 

The important thing about filters is that you can – and should – use a variety of them on your topics. Think of your topics like the main branches of a tree – you’ll have several of these, but then each will have branches of its own. Using environmental building technologies again as an example, you can search for that topic and filter it by commercial techniques, then research the same topic again, but this time for residential, if both of those are relevant to your purpose. 

The point is, to keep your discovery within your sources useful and not overwhelming, you need to surface information on one small area of interest, and then another.

Best practice #4: Include a broad range of perspectives

While we talked in the previous sections about narrowing focus, it’s now time to look at broadening the sources themselves. It’s the combination of narrowing your topics and using filtering that makes it reasonable to expand the sources from which you collect information.

We’ve talked at length about the benefits of an inclusive secondary source strategy. If you don’t have a toolset that simplifies finding topical experts outside of mainstream media, it’s well worth the time spent finding those experts, even and sometimes especially if they present a different world view of your topic than you’re familiar with.

Best practice #5: Create an easy to access repository

All of that research, the investigation into the questions you need to answer, and finding relevant experts won’t mean much if you don’t have a place to store and use the information you discover. You’ll want to share the originating source, the important snippets, and any provenance information about it that you have. You’ll also want a means of recording your thoughts on why the information is important.

Ideally, you’ll want to be able to combine the various nuggets of information with other important items you’ve surfaced, as well as make these collections and any annotations and notes available to the rest of your team and possibly your stakeholders.

That’s a tall order without a toolset that simplifies harvesting information from your sources. We’ve spoken with many companies who have tried to do that with documents, file folders, and even spreadsheets only to find they have created a black hole of information – what goes in never really comes back out. 

This is why Boards in Cronycle are so important to both individual users and teams. It allows you to save the sources you’ve found, tag and take notes, annotate the information, and even tag team members, start a discussion, and collaborate with them. Boards can be shared with stakeholders, as well, so that they can easily access what you’ve uncovered. Plus, with the Cronycle clipper and the ability within Boards to save from URLs and upload files, you can put anything crucial to your insight and intelligence development into a single place.

The research you do and the intelligence that you develop from it serve an important purpose. That’s why it’s critical that you have a purposeful strategy for your secondary sources, examine a broad set of perspectives on your topics of interest, and have a clean and accessible means of storing, retrieving, discussing, and sharing what you find.


Cronycle was built with exactly these best practices in mind. Contact us today to see a demo and learn more about how Cronycle simplifies discovering relevant topical experts, saves the information you find, supports insight development, and enables sharing across your organization, saving you time at a cost that’s highly competitive with other tools in the space.

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