The Value of Objective Primary Research when Developing a Marketing Action Plan

By David Allred

The Value of Objective Primary Research when Developing a Marketing Action Plan

Research helps DMOs by providing verifiable facts that influence your decision-making process. Read about primary and secondary research and how each can inform your destination’s marketing efforts. Read time: 5 minutes

Research will help ensure that the decisions you make to market your destination are based on verifiable facts that influence your creativity and your choice of advertising mediums. There are two types of research that can help inform your marketing efforts: primary and secondary. Research that has been commissioned by and conducted for someone else is considered secondary research. While there can be a great deal of value for travel and tourism professionals in evaluating secondary research, most of that value lies in understanding overall travel trends. Secondary research can also serve as a guide to help you formulate your own research goals and questions and figure out what is most applicable to know about your destination, target markets, their economic standing, and more. However, if you are looking to inform your marketing efforts with data specific to your destination’s target audiences and that will help achieve your economic development goals, primary research will prove to be of great value to your efforts.

Advantages of primary research

Take these advantages into account as you consider the value of primary research:

  • Accuracy: a genuine, first-hand account
  • Depth: you set the parameters
  • Bias: you determine the vantage point of the results
  • Control: maximum control over data collection methods
  • Perspective: illuminates new ways of thinking and/or approaching challenges
  • Measurement: sets a baseline for future “progress measurement”
  • Foundation: informs methodology for future research efforts

Why Independent?

The goal of research is to objectively inform your marketing efforts. If the same firm is conducting research and developing the creative and delivery plan, an inherent (and unavoidable) lack of objectivity exists. Just like you don’t want a prosecutor also being your judge or a radiologist also doing your surgery, you don’t want a marketing firm conducting your research or a research firm developing your marketing. And when you do have this separation of church and state, you have two valuable DMO team members whose sum is more valuable than their parts - an independent marketer that can objectively evaluate the research to inform the creative and delivery plan and an independent researcher that can objectively evaluate and help shape the marketing to ensure it will hit the mark.

Informing your Marketing Action Plan (MAP)

As you develop and update your DMO’s MAP, primary research can be invaluable to the process. In step one, as you identify the target audiences that will influence your success, primary research helps define and prioritize these groups. In step two, as you define each group’s role in your destination’s success, primary research helps give insight into each of these groups and what they need to do to contribute to your destination’s success. But primary research is most valuable in step three, as you formulate what these groups need to believe about you in order for you to succeed with them. How? The results of primary research can help you objectively:

  • Identify the primary reasons people visit your destination
  • Understand visitor behavior as they explore your destination
  • Determine how well your destination delivers on visitor expectations
  • Quantify your visitor demographics and psychographics for profile development
  • Identify areas for improving your destination or key services

Your target audiences' expectations (what they need to believe about your destination in order for you to succeed with them) must be realistic but should also be aspirational. Once the beliefs are defined, primary research can also provide a high level of credibility to many of your "local" target groups that often don't see your destination as "tourism worthy" as it has the potential to be. Finally, primary research can be helpful as you develop processes to communicate these beliefs to accomplish the desired roles of your target groups. Over the last 15 years, Stamp has worked with clients to develop over 200 MAPs, MANY of them informed by independent, primary research. If you are using Stamp's resources to help develop a MAP for your destination on your own, I hope that this explanation of why primary research is important to your destination and how it can inform your MAP development process has been helpful. If this article has left you with some unanswered questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at