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Tips on Getting Primary Source Data

Special thanks to Jan Chong

The hardest part of collecting first person data will most likely be finding people who are willing to talk to you. You'll probably have the most luck in two domains: your personal network and the Stanford community.

1. Your personal network: Think hard about people you know who might have experience in this realm. Don't limit yourself to people who work in the industry you're analyzing; if your ultimate target is a certain type of consumer, try to think of people you know who might fit the demographic. Ask your families, your friends, your dormmates, your classmates, people you work with. Between all the people you know and all the people they know, you're probably covering a wide variety of interests and experiences and we'd be surprised if you couldn't find someone who's an candidate. Once you identify one person, ask them who else they know. Make sure you mention who referred you -- if you highlight the personal connection, they'll be more inclined to help you out.

2. The Stanford Community: Stanford provides you with a wide pool of people who have ties to the University, you can leverage that. Are there people on campus who have similar roles to your target consumer? Think beyond Stanford's academic pursuits; there's the bookstore, the Daily, Stanford Magazine, the Athletics Department, Storke Publishing House, the Art Musuem, the Hospital, etc -- just to name a few. Are there alumni working in the industries you want to look at? (Check with the Alumni association; they keep pretty good tabs the graduates.)

Once you find someone, the sort of questions you'll ask will depend on who you're talking to. If you find someone who fits your consumer demographic, getting information shouldn't be too tricky. You'll want to see what features they consider important, what factors they consider in purchasing, what price range they would consider, basically, what would get them to buy your product. If you find someone positioned in industry, it'll be a bit trickier (particularly if you're considering following up on the venture possibility). Ask them how the industry works, who the major players are, who they consider the competition, what trends they see coming up, what their company's major obstacles were, etc. Even if all they give you is a rehash of publicly available information, you can get a sense of their view of the industry - which is fairly valuable. Start with those basic questions and see where they take you.

Above all else, have patience! It's hard to find people and, once you find them, it can be hard to schedule time to talk with them. Be polite and accommodating. People tend to be nicer if you talk to them in person rather than over the phone, but if they're very busy the phone might be a better idea. Or maybe offer to buy them lunch if you've got the funds. Do your best, but don't feel the need to kill yourself tracking people down if it turns out to be harder than you thought. We don't expect a comprehensive survey of the people in your industry, it's simply a means for you to experience the challenges of pursuing an opportunity.

Hope this helps!