Here’s the hard truth: great ideas don’t always make money. Market research can help you save time and money by knowing where to play and how to win. You must consider many factors to create a successful product or service. Is there motivation to purchase? Is there a market for the product? Is that market growing or shrinking? How is your product branded, positioned, and marketed? Without market research, you’re risking your invested time and money on a product or service that may or may not be successful.
For insight into these topics, we invited Dolly Casper to present on market research during a Lassonde for Life alumni workshop. Casper has been involved with the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute since 2008, co-founded NovaBio, and won over $250,000 in non-dilutive funding. She has filed four patents, has 22 publications, taught three college courses, and received a Women Tech Award. While raising her family, she went into sales with Thermo Fisher Scientific, becoming one of their top-performing biotechnology account managers. She and her husband are in the Master of Business Creation program and launching STOHZ, a wireless earbud accessory company.
For entrepreneurs like Casper, market research has become an integral part of their process for creating successful businesses and products. Here are some key takeaways from her Lassonde for Life presentation:
1. Consider Where to Play and How to Win
Casper follows the “where to play and how to win” method of marketing research taught by Jeff Davis, a professor of marketing at the University of Utah. “Where to play and how to win” is a strategy for considering how to implement a product into a specific market.
To implement the “where to play and how to win” strategy, Casper recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- What is the product’s or service’s purpose?
- Where will I play? (geographic location, product categories, production stage, channel, etc.)
- What is required for me to win in the market?
- What is my unique winning strategy (value proposition or competitive advantages)
- What support systems do I need to win in this market? (systems, structure, and measures)
Casper also recommends using a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, a simple tool to help determine your “where to play and how to win” strategy. Use the graphic below as a guide for a market research-specific SWOT analysis.
2. Use Multiple Market Research Tactics
Market research will look different for every product and service based on resource availability and need. One, many, or all of these strategies could be implemented at any time. There is no limit to the number of tactics you could use for your market research; as Casper says, “More is always more.” The more information you have, the better you can position your product or service. According to Casper, deciding when you have enough data depends on your comfort level and risk adversity. The following list is a comprehensive guide to types of market research:
- Who are your direct and indirect competitors?
- What is the status quo for your competitors?
- What can you learn from their websites?
- What is the purchase process for similar products or services?
- How are similar products or services priced?
- What kind of reviews are your competitors receiving?
Social Media Analysis
- Who are your direct and indirect competitors?
- How are they utilizing social media?
- What are their follower demographics?
- What social media platforms are they utilizing?
- What is the size of your market?
- What trends are happening in your primary and secondary markets?
- What information can you find about your market and competitors on social media forums (e.g., Reddit)?
- Is it helpful to hire a market researcher for your project (e.g., hiring from Fivvr or Upwork to assist in your research)?
- What information is publicly available about your competitors, product, service, and market?
- Focus Groups
- Beta tests
- Information gleaned directly
- Audience demographic information
- Audience interests and needs
- Direct audience connections
- The actual demand for a product
Implementing multiple market research tactics can help increase the success rate of your product or service.
3. Analyze Market Size
Casper uses the TAM SAM SOM model to determine market size. TAM (total addressable market) is the largest market available. SAM (serviceable available market) is the market size you could reach right now. SOM (serviceable obtainable market) is the market size you could realistically get with your current resources.
Identifying your TAM SAM SOM can assist you in your market research and identifying your direct target audience.
4. Get Out of the Building
Although there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to market research, Casper states the overall goal of market research is to “Get out of the building!” She cautions that although market research is critical, you must determine when you have enough information and are ready to “get out of the building.” Ultimately, you should start selling, talking, and surveying as soon as possible.
Market research is an ongoing process of testing and learning. According to Casper, creating a mock-up landing page that offers products, allows an add-to-cart, offers presales or offers product updates is an example of continuous market research. Mock websites are an excellent example of getting out of the building and testing your product or service. Creating a mock website can serve your market research twofold. First, a mock website allows you to learn about your customer behavior and product interest. And Second, it sells the product. A presale scenario is a direct example of nonlinear market research. Market research is always happening, even as you are selling your product. With every sale, you can learn about your customer’s wants, needs, and buying process, which will only improve your market research.
5. Use Recommended Tools
When it comes to market research, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Casper recommends the following tools to assist you in developing your market research strategy:
Two books recommended by Casper are “The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick” and “Playing to Win” by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin. Preparing for market research doesn’t always mean creating a product. Often, the best preparation is self-improvement and learning. A good understanding of market research can help propel you forward when it comes to implementation.
Casper recommends hiring help when needed. Websites like Fivver and Upwork can assist you in finding freelancers for market research. Depending on the size of your project, hiring market research assistants may be the difference between success and failure.
Learn more about the Lassonde for Life program and upcoming alumni workshops at lassonde.utah.edu/life.