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There are many different marketing research approaches and methodologies. Whether you’re interested in learning a little about your audience or market, you should carefully consider each unique situation, the top issues at hand, and your end goals. From there, you need to craft a research design that will best meet the objectives while staying within budgetary constraints. Here’s a quick overview to give you an idea of different types of research methodologies are commonly used in marketing research and what a sample research design might look like:

Primary vs. Secondary Research

Primary research is critical to any research project. Primary research involves going straight to the source (usually key stakeholders) to obtain information. This might take place in the form of face-to-face or phone interviews, focus groups, or discussion panels, just to name a few examples. (Primary research makes up the majority of the research we engage in at Linden.) Secondary research involves analyzing data derived from secondary sources such as articles, databases, and U.S. Census Data. This type of research can be especially useful in obtaining industry-specific information. When primary research is complemented with secondary, research findings are more likely to provide a fuller picture and deeper insights.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative

Quantitative research is raw, quantifiable, measurable data.  Think “quantity”—numbers. You can get quantitative data from surveys, questionnaires and sometimes phone interviews as well. The next step is to analyze the data for relevant patterns and themes that may reveal an opportunity you hadn’t seen before, or verify a hunch you had. Qualitative data: Unlike quantitative data, qualitative data is not measurable or statistically relevant. Think “quality”—character or condition. However, it digs deeper into emotionally-charged issues than quantitative data, providing rich insights, in-depth perceptions and illuminating quotes from key stakeholders. This kind of information typically doesn’t show up in a quick quantitative survey, but going the extra mile to conduct some interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders can provide some truly invaluable findings. Qualitative data adds deeper layers of understanding and perspective to research.

Quantitative + Qualitative = Deep Insights

The majority of research we recommend (and conduct for our clients) involves a mixed-methods design, meaning we collect both quantitative and qualitative data.  This powerful combination enables you to obtain both measurable, quantifiable results as well as rich, illuminating first-person quotes and in-depth perceptions of key stakeholders. Here’s an example of how a mixed methods research design this might look for a small, specialty healthcare practice:

  • An online survey for current and past patients
  • In-depth phone interviews with key staff members, such as doctors
  • A focus group conducted with the general public

The above combination of both quantitative data (the online survey) and qualitative data (the phone interviews and focus group) is what gives a unique, big picture perspective. By focusing on different groups and different methods, the research findings will be comprehensive and provide a greater level of data-driven insight than one of these methods alone.

Remember: it’s not about how much data you collect, it’s about how you use it to drive you toward your goals.


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