Once you’ve committed to a market research campaign and identified what information you need (see part 1), the bulk of the work begins. Conducting market research is not generally quick or straightforward. It requires persistence, rigor, organisation, flexibility and intuition – and can take up to three months or more to prepare it as a basis of your go to market strategy.
Conducting market research is not a linear process as intelligence will be gathered from a wide range of different sources, to inform and validate the other. At gemaker, we start by obtaining a big picture industry perspective from different sources – such as talking to business networks, reading relevant industry reports, googling industry news and blogs – and we analyse for common themes, before casting the net wider and plunging deeper into particular sectors.
Throughout this process, it’s important to keep an open mind and follow any paths that present themselves, as you might find yourself investigating opportunities and competitors in an industry sector or geographic region different from that you originally expected but which shows more promise.
We like to think of market intelligence as an enormous jigsaw puzzle, with patterns emerging in different corners of the canvas, and it is not until all the pieces are gathered and fitted together that the cohesive picture is fully revealed.
Our two top tips for good market research are:
- Start small, before broadening your search and deepening in areas of specific interest.
- Validate your findings across a range of different data sources.
Spreadsheets are your friend
Although market research is not a linear process, you do need to be systematic when gathering and recording your data. Here, spreadsheets are your friend! For example, if you’re gathering information about competitors (such as location, products, features, benefits, industry sector, unique selling point, price), make sure you include data for every category for every company. Leave no gaps (unless not applicable).
To illustrate this, let us once more consider the iSee videoconferencing platform. Through the course of our market research, we identified some 80+ competitors in this crowded space (enough to scare anyone off launching a new product). By comparing features and pricing of competitor products we were able to determine that there were really just a handful of real competitors to iSee and we were able to identify iSee’s key point of differentiation and niche (position) in the marketplace. iSee was the only video conferencing product in the marketplace to allow 12+ people to see and collaborate with each other with relatively low bandwidth usage. This information and the surveying of people in different sectors led us to focus more fully on researching the education sector, where this type of functionality is in demand.
Pivot, pivot, pivot
A very useful function of most spreadsheet software is the ability to generate pivot tables from your raw data, without altering it. A pivot-table can automatically sort, count total or give the average of the data stored in one table or spreadsheet, based on parameters you set, and displays this information in a separate table. This is a powerful way of filtering and making comparisons across large amounts of data, which can save days in data analysis time.
How do you find the data you need?
There are a great many resources available to supply the information required for market research. Google can be your friend, BUT it is by no means the only resource and should not be considered as such. Here are some suggested resources beyond Google:
- Customers and prospective customers – If you have a current customer base or identified prospective customers then interviews and surveys (using SurveyMonkey) with them can elicit valuable information to guide your product and marketing direction and provide juicy information on your current competitors.
- Business networks – Talking to people in related industries can be very useful, whether you conduct formal surveys or merely engage in casual conversations to identify themes. Similarly, you might consider joining relevant LinkedIn discussion groups, where conversations about related technologies or industries are occurring regularly.
- Industry reports – There are several industry research organisations that issue annual reports about various market sectors. Such reports (such as the IBIS Reports) are excellent places to gain a helicopter view of any markets of interest.
- Other organisations – Organisations such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, various Government bodies, various professional associations, and patent databases such as IP Australia (patents) and WIPO are also worth considering where applicable.
- Libraries – University libraries in particular are full of books and journal articles with in-depth information about specific topics that might come up in the course of your research. For instance, if you want to know details of a core theory associated with some aspect of your product or service. Libraries are also a good option for accessing important industry reports you might otherwise need to purchase.
- Company annual reports – For obtaining specific information about identified competitors, their respective annual reports are often very informative.
How do I know when to stop?
Owing to the size and nature of a market research campaign, it can sometimes be difficult to know when to stop collating information. There are two ways of looking at this.
First, in one sense it’s important to always keep gathering information in your identified market sectors – competitors, regulations, industry trends change over time, and you need to make sure your information is current. For this reason we recommend all data be time and source stamped, and reviewed on an annual basis as part of the business or commercialisation plan.
On the other hand, there will come a point in your initial market research campaign, when you can stop casting wider and deeper and searching out new competitors. When you are finally ready to act, this will be the point at which you can look at your findings across all your sources and establish you have enough data to validate a certain path.
Your jigsaw puzzle might be showing you a “tree” instead of a “car” as expected – and you might not be able to make every piece fit – but the picture will now be clear. You can now act upon your market intelligence, secure in the knowledge you have done your due diligence, and make informed business decisions for product development and taking that product to market.
This three-part series will conclude with a post to illustrate how to use all that gold you uncover to inform business decisions. In the meantime, if you have any questions about market research or would like to discuss how we can support you, please don’t hesitate tocontact us.