The importance of a secondary research source strategy

Secondary research sourcing strategies for Go-To-Market and Competitive Intelligence

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There are a variety of corporate disciplines – including competitive intelligence, M&A analysts, product marketing, and other go-to-market (GTM) groups – that rely on secondary research to help power thinking and decision making. Primary sources are, of course, incredibly valuable, but also complex, costly, and time-consuming to develop and mine. This post describes how to improve sourcing strategies.

Secondary research does more than fill a gap, however. It’s a powerful tool for understanding what’s going on in your market space and in adjacent markets, where disruptions often surface. It’s key to influencing stakeholders and supporting the intelligence development needed for GTM teams and organizations.

However, not all secondary sources are created equal. Well-chosen, your sources can bring you close to the genesis of a piece of information and provide you time and space to create thought-provoking and directive insights. If your secondary source strategy, however, is shallow or limited, it can blind you to incoming threats and disruptors, or keep you from gaining a full understanding of your competitive space and customers’ needs.

The dangers of a limited set of sources

With the constant demands on market and competitive intelligence (M&CI) teams, product marketers, and others, reviewing and processing secondary sources for information is just one item on a long list of to-dos. 

To combat the feeling of overwhelm and in an attempt to focus this research, these professionals choose sources to monitor that are limited but, presumably, reliable. Many times, these sources are mainstream news providers or well know trade journals. In theory, this makes sense. There are millions of new pieces of content added to the internet every day – it would be impossible to find every relevant piece without some method of control, even if it were your full-time job. 

In practice, though, this strategy serves to limit your perspective. Monitoring known sources alone results in aggregating the bias that those sources bring. In fact, the mining of a stable basket of sources yields a set of perspectives that probably already contain some level of confirmation bias. Worse, many of the available tools that help aggregate topical and marketing information also lean toward a standard and static set of sources, further exacerbating the problem when the point of these tools is to provide you with more relevant information, faster.

To truly create insights and meaningful intelligence for your organization and products, you need to be surfacing perspectives that challenge your assumptions and thoughts. Importantly, you also need to be mining this information from as close to its origination point as possible. 

Sourcing like a journalist

Once information reaches the mainstream or major industry publications, it’s already two, three, even four or more times removed from the original idea or content. That’s because journalists are mining for stories similar to what someone looking at secondary research does – they Google it.

Well, not quite, but the modern process of a journalist is different than it was 30 or 40 years ago. Traditionally, journalists worked a beat. Thanks to popular media, this brings up visions of a writer, pencil and pad in hand, haranguing a hard-boiled detective for information on a recent crime.

In reality, a journalist’s beat might have actually been supply chain and suppliers for the automotive industry, or investments and acquisitions in banking. These writers would have a stable of sources they would call, looking to uncover information that other journalists hadn’t gotten to yet, or that would be relevant to their audience. 

Journalism today is a bit different. Few have a single beat, for instance. According to a 2021 study that surveyed 2,400 journalists, the average journalist today covers 3 or more beats. That’s one of the reasons why 23% of those that responded said that they are busier, along with layoffs and furloughs.

Sourcing strategies for journalists have also changed. An older study by Cision and Don Bates of The George Washington University’s Master’s Degree Program in Strategic Public Relations found that 89% of journalists turn to blogs for story research and 52% turn to Twitter and other microblogging sites. 

While that study is several years old, the trend is still there – the aforementioned 2021 study found that 76% of journalists identify Twitter as the most valuable social network for them, and 58% identified online newspapers and magazines as the first place they go for news, compared to only 7% each for print or TV & cable news.

Graph of journalist's intent to use social media for their sourcing strategies, from the report The State of Journalism 2021
Figure 1. Source: The State of Journalism 2021 – A Study by Muck Rack

Like getting a tip from an industry insider, reviewing the blogs and microblogs of topical experts allows journalists to get closer to the genesis of a story or piece of information, and provides a broader opportunity for further research and story development.

The same is true for GTM teams and M&CI professionals – the closer you can get to the source of information, the more time you have to harvest additional insights, develop intelligence, and share with stakeholders. It gives you more runway to react and make critical decisions about the direction of products, messaging, and strategy.

Getting closer to the source of information is core to effective sourcing strategies.

Implement sourcing strategies embracing a wider set of sources without overwhelm

Of course, that is easier said than done. Calling back to what we said at the beginning of this piece, secondary research is only one piece of your very large daily puzzle. The mere idea of digging through more sources, and more content, some of which are completely unknown to you, can be overwhelming. It’s frankly not possible or scalable to find topical experts and monitor all the content they produce and all of the information that they share on your own. So how to implement such effective sourcing strategies?

This is the very purpose of Cronycle. Cronycle’s platform aggregates content shared by topical experts across major global languages on 80,000+ topics. This allows our platform to surface what you’d normally see and all of the content and information that you didn’t know you were missing, without becoming overwhelming and even saving you time. With Cronycle, you see important, relevant information, laser-focused on the areas that matter most to you and your organization, from a broad range of perspectives and without bias.

Using the content feed and filters to find information important to competitive intelligence, product marketing, and other go-to-market functions. Filters let you reduce the information flow from broad sourcing strategies.

Just as journalists do, we use social media, like Twitter, to point us in the direction of important information, along with other content discovery sources. Services like Twitter are only signposts, however – they uncover the content that is being shared by the experts and influencers on a topic. Cronycle aggregates the content that was shared in posts – content that comes from millions of domains across the internet where it’s been published.

Harvested information for insight and intelligence development for competitive intelligence on Cronycle Boards. Boards can collect information from any kind of source, including emails, so they can support broad sourcing strategies.

Cronycle’s platform provides tools for uncovering this content and has powerful filters that minimize noise without missing important information. Once discovered, that content can be added to boards for further analysis, annotation, and insight development alone or in collaboration with teams.

Sharing competitive intelligence and GTM insights with newsletters, on social media, with Slack or Teams, and others

Sharing can also be done from within the platform with tools like a newsletter creator and integrations to various applications – including Microsoft Teams and Slack – so that stakeholders can receive important intelligence within their own flow of work.

Secondary sourcing strategies are critical to uncovering information before competitors do and seeing potential disruptions in time to react and respond thoughtfully and with intent. Relying on mainstream media or a small bucket of sources may seem like a simple and manageable solution, but the potential to miss crucial information is high. 

Cronycle makes it easy to spot emerging trends and see different perspectives, closer to the source of origin, while saving you time. Want to learn more? We’d love to hear from you and set up a time to show you everything Cronycle can do for you.

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