Marketing and Market Research for Start-Ups
LISTEN TO THE MARKET!
How often do you see a new product or service idea falter or fail to reach its full potential? And often, the problem isn’t the product or idea, but the way it’s been positioned in the market. It can be easy to see in hindsight that some up-front “listening” to the market would have been invaluable.
I spend a lot of time with start-ups and most of them believe they have the next great ______ [fill in the blank]. And, for the most part, they do have something novel, innovative and exciting.
Resources are always tight for young companies. Developing a targeted go-to-market strategy, including prioritizing which audiences you are targeting and what product or solution they will value the most, is critical to reducing your time-to-market and maximizing your limited resources.
Here are some tried-and-true marketing and market research techniques that will help you develop and launch a winning new idea.
1. Conduct a Competitive Marketing Audit
Use the internet and publicly available information to piece together the market landscape for your particular space or technology. Review competitors’ websites, professional associations and any existing marketing, press, or articles. As a marketer, I’m always looking at the components of competitors’ messaging. Who are they targeting? How are they differentiating themselves or what do they stand for? It’s so important to understand the landscape so you don’t create a value proposition that is exactly like something else already out there.
2. Talk to your Target Audiences
The biggest mistake I see start-ups make is only talking to friends and family about their product or idea. So often, friends and family are NOT the target audiences so, although you may receive valuable input, it is not the true response from your intended target. Talking to your Target Audience as part of a basic market research plan should entail two steps:
- First, try to seek out a handful of individuals who are “ideal” customers and conduct an in-depth interview with them about your concept, product or service. The interview may be in-person or by phone and typically would last about 30-45 minutes. Make sure you have developed an outline in advance with key questions, probing points, etc. to help guide the discussion but don’t let it inhibit where the discussion might go.
- When you feel that you have a pretty clear concept put together, it is important to go beyond small numbers and conduct a broader, quantitative market research survey to prove your hypothesis. Your sample size should be 50 at a minimum, but ideally at least 300. Don’t forget – if you don’t know how to structure the survey, get professional help! Remember garbage in = garbage out.
3. Talk to key influencers (those people that might be one step removed from what you believe to be your core, target audience)
Learn their perspective about your proposed solution and the problem it solves. This step is often skipped, but is vital to building the most complete view of how different influencers can impact the decision-maker.
For example, say you are an EdTech company targeting children, ages 10-15, then you might also add parents, teachers, and schools to your list of influencers. If you are a HealthTech company targeting patients with a medical condition, you might add caretakers, physicians, hospitals and pharma companies to your list.
The bottom line is to reach out to as many people as possible using market research early on to help shape your idea, product or service and, ultimately, to give you market validation that it is something that has good potential, and is worthy of your time, passion and commitment. The key throughout the entire process is to really LISTEN!