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How desk research can grow your business

Have you ever had an idea for your business and then spent hours traveling down a rabbit hole (usually Google) until you’ve still not really found what you’re looking for (in the great words of U2’s Bono!)

As market research specialists, we’re often going down rabbit holes, but they’re more likely to be defined, we have access to rabbit holes that most businesses don’t (i.e. proper research databases) and have team members qualified to find out the most random of facts and market intelligence

We call this desk research.

What is desk research?

Desk research, also known as secondary research, is the method of utilising existing data available to inform your own research. Probably unsurprisingly, it is referred to as desk research as it’s usually conducted at a desk, alone on a computer.  

Often used as a precursor to primary research, desk research is based on other’s data which was created / collected with another purpose in mind, but that can be used in part to provide you with usable insights.  

While search engines will play a big part in finding the correct research you need, it is much more than simply Googling a question, where the answers you’re given may be quick but are not necessarily accurate or credible. Instead, search engines are used to locate reputable research, such as government bodies or universities. The databases listed below are a great starting point (but not limited to): 

  • COBRA 
  • Local Data Company 
  • ONS 
  • Mintel 
  • IbisWorld 
  • Kompass 
  • D&B Hoovers 
  • British Standards Online 
  • Access to Research 

Through these organisations, you can grab yourself some great insights in the form of literary or document reviews, market research, data analysis / statistics. 

What’s so great about desk research

This kind of secondary market research is often used by researchers to support their insights knowledge before embarking on primary research for a new client or in a new market without incurring costs, saving valuable budgets.

Desk research is predominantly quick, easy and cheaper than primary research, making it an attractive start in your research strategy, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises with limited budgets.  

Its accessibility allows for businesses to locate insights without practical research experience, with many available via local libraries. By tapping into existing data, businesses can remove the time and cost implications of primary research whilst still gaining suitable insights for their own aims. 

How desk research can help your business 

For a small amount of time and money, businesses can arm themselves with: 

Market Understanding

Desk research enables businesses to stay informed on current market trends, consumer preferences, and industry developments.  

Competitor Insights

Analysing competitors through desk research helps businesses identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). This information is crucial for developing competitive strategies, differentiating products or services, and finding gaps in the market. 

Strategic Decision-Making

Studying industry reports, market analyses, and economic indicators provides businesses with the opportunity to identify new areas for growth, expansion, or diversification.  

Desk research also aids in identifying potential risks and challenges within the business environment; valuable information for making informed decisions and developing risk mitigation strategies. 

Product Development and Innovation

As well as market and customer trends, desk research helps businesses stay abreast of technological and innovative changes that may affect their ability to grow, whether positively or negatively.  

Utilising existing online consumer feedback in the marketplace – and reviews – can provide valuable insights into product performance, areas for improvement, and potential features that can be incorporated into new products or services. 

The pitfalls 

It almost sounds too good to be true; all of this for free (or close to it)! However, as we mentioned earlier, desk research is a supportive method as a precursor to more custom research, tailored specifically to your needs.  

Ultimately, desk research was created with another aim in mind and maybe missing information, out of date, unreliable or simply irrelevant. It may not have the depth or scope businesses require to inform their decisions accurately, or it may be missing vital perspectives or bias to make the correct assumptions.  

Conducting desk research can also be a real slog. It is unlikely that there will be off-the-shelf research that exactly meets your needs, or perhaps it’s dated, and that means a lot of searching, reading, consuming information to find the pieces to complete your own puzzle. Information overload and fatigue impedes both the speed of your research and the accuracy, as mistakes are made or missed due to excessive data.  

This is where MMC can come in. Desk research is part of our offer and it can be seamlessly intertwined with your tailor-made research package – or as a stand alone offer. 

For SMEs based in Newcastle, Gateshead or Sunderland, you might also be entitled to 12 hours funded research as part of the CityLife BIPC UKSPF programme. To find out more email 


Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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