Skip to content
An illustration of hands touching a tablet with a variety of charts, representing complementary market research.

How To Conduct Complementary Market Research

TJ Kiely

Apr 23, 2024

Complementary research can be a helpful tool for marketers looking to reduce trial and error and maximize results. Rather than reinvent the wheel, marketers can lean on readily available data and information to guide their strategies.

Marketing success isn’t just about the most creative campaigns, pretty visuals, and clever copy. It’s also about knowing your audience and understanding the data behind what works and what doesn’t in marketing.

Marketing is part art and part science, and complementary market research can boost the science aspect so the art side has the best chance of resonating with the right people in the right places.

Learn more about complementary research and how to go about using this type of market research to improve your marketing.

Table of Contents:

What Is Complementary Market Research?

Complementary market research is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Each type of research — whether it's surveys, focus groups, or data analysis — provides a unique piece of the puzzle. On its own, a single piece may not reveal the full picture, but when you combine multiple pieces from different parts of the puzzle, you start to see a clearer, more comprehensive image.

Others call this secondary research or desk research.

researcher running a complementary market research

In marketing, an example of complementary market research would be combining quantitative and qualitative data on the same topic. This allows you to learn more about consumer interests, forecasting trends, and gain a more holistic view of the marketplace.

Why Is Complementary Research Important?

The benefits of conducting complementary market research include:

  • The ability to make informed decisions based on data-driven insights
  • Understand complex and evolving industry dynamics
  • Stay ahead of competitors
  • Identify new avenues for growth
  • Effectively tailor products and services to the right audiences
  • Achieve sustainable success

Ultimately, complementary market research gives you a more complete picture of your industry and target market.

Types of Complementary Research Methods

We can break complementary research into two different types: internal and external.

Internal complementary research comes from your own data. This data might come from:

  • Website analytics
  • Databases
  • Past campaigns
  • Customer-generated data (e.g., verbal feedback, surveys, etc.)

This information can give you a competitive edge because your competitors can’t access it. It’s data you already own, which makes it more accessible and cost-effective.

Tip: Learn how Haleon, the world's largest standalone consumer healthcare business, used Meltwater to drastically increase their market research efficiency.

External complementary research refers to data your organization does not own. Research sources may include:

This type of data works well when you need new insights or information. It can also help you fill in known knowledge gaps or even lead you to questions you haven’t thought to ask.

How to Conduct Complementary Market Research

explaining how to conduct a complementary market research

Complementary market research involves collecting and reviewing data from multiple sources. Here’s how to manage all of the moving parts of this process to get the answers you need.

1. State your research objective

Complementary research ties to an idea or goal. You have a question that needs answers, so you start sifting through various secondary sources to support it.

Your goal might be to fill knowledge gaps, provide additional context, or validate other findings. Having a clear goal or objective will help you choose your research sources and collect the right information.

2. Set a knowledge baseline

Once you know what the needle in the haystack looks like, you can start selecting the right tools to find it. These tools are data that create your knowledge foundation.

For example, let’s say you’re launching a new type of tea and want to learn more about how consumers feel about tropical tea flavors. You can use what you already know about your consumers’ preferences, such as purchasing history, the keywords you already rank for, and online reviews, to guide your research.

Take inventory of your internal and external resources that might already contain this information. For example, did you recently conduct a survey of current customers about which tea flavors they might like to try?

Once you have a baseline idea, you can start adding more data sources to the mix to complement your initial findings.

3. Find complementary sources to complete the picture 

Complementary research should bolster the data you already have. You can choose a variety of sources to cross-reference your findings and get a fuller picture of your idea or topic.

Using our tropical tea flavor example, you might want to validate findings with a focus group, customer feedback surveys, or sampling events.

You might also seek out industry reports or white papers from studies on consumer preferences for flavored teas.

Another helpful tool is a consumer intelligence platform. This technology gauges how consumers think and feel about a variety of topics based on social media and online conversations. These platforms use AI technologies like natural language processing to understand how consumers are talking about a topic.

You can check your website analytics to see which of your current tea products gain the most interest. 

You might also use SEO tools to see how popular online searches are for tropical tea flavors, review customer purchasing patterns, and see how past product launches have performed.

Make a list of all possible secondary market research sources, then decide which ones to include in your project.

4. Evaluate the credibility of each source

It’s not enough to find data sources that support your ideas — you also need to be able to trust the stories these sources tell. 

fact checking as part of evaluating source credibility

Consider the validity of each source, especially if you’re using third-party data. Some ways to do this include:

  • Knowing where the data comes from (from primary sources when possible)
  • Knowing how old the data is
  • Learning whether the data was peer-reviewed and looking deeper into that process
  • Identifying the author and their credibility
  • Understanding the publisher’s track record

If you can’t trust the data, you won’t be able to use it to help you reach your goals.

5. Analyze and synthesize your findings

Review the information you gathered through your complementary market research sources. Pick out common themes and patterns and determine how they apply to your original objective.

It’s helpful to organize your findings and document the sources they came from. In most cases, research projects will involve multiple stakeholders and several review stages, so this will make it easier to find information later.

Tip: Learn how to increase your organization's speed to insight in our Insight-Driven Marketing Guide.

6. Draw conclusions and make recommendations

Combine your new findings with your baseline information to complete your research picture. This is a good spot to determine whether you have enough information to make recommendations or whether you have more questions or knowledge gaps to fill.

Use your findings to make key decisions, and use your data sources to support those decisions. Share your findings with other stakeholders and communicate the value of the research so you can feel confident in moving forward.

Best Practices for Conducting Complementary Market Research

As you go through the complementary market research process, follow these best practices to improve your outcomes:

  • Identify reliable sources. When you choose solid sources like reputable journals, government reports, or industry insights, you're getting the richest, most reliable data out there. You can also feel more confident sharing those sources with other stakeholders, making you look more credible in the process.
  • Consider the ethical side of complementary market research. Complementary research often means using someone else’s work, so make sure you properly attribute your findings. Ensure you’re not misleading stakeholders or purposely skewing your findings.
  • Document your process. You’ll probably need complementary research more than once, so it’s helpful to document how you go about conducting research, vetting sources, and organizing your findings.

Meltwater can help you streamline complementary market research and turn it into a real-time, ongoing process. Our consumer intelligence platform analyzes billions of data points in real time.

Tap into social media, blogs, newspapers, podcasts, and other online and offline media sources to discover trends, competitors, and topics. Get new insights about your audience and answer questions you haven’t thought to ask.

Meltwater serves as a single source of truth for brands around the world, whether you have one office or a multi-location enterprise. Our platform uses a combination of AI and human analysis to turn unstructured data into insights that drive your business forward.

Learn how Meltwater can speed up complementary market research when you request a demo by filling out the form below.