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Market Research – But That’s REALLY Expensive!

Cunning Plan

And you’re right, it is… if you choose to make it so. As a non-marketer and new business owner, I found it a real struggle to get my head around the concept of market research.  I had visions of agencies, marketing consultants, the whole nine yards. I had zero budget and really didn’t know where to start at all including what questions to ask!

So what did I do?

After the initial panic, I started to frame a cunning plan (a Blackadder fan!) based on the fact that I was selling business to business.

Identified what I needed to know a.k.a. does this business idea have any merit!

  • Was there are market?
  • What was that market willing to pay?
  • What were the barriers to entry?
  • What were my competition doing…

….. the usual sorts of thing!

Identified who I knew who were in relevant businesses so that I could bounce the ideas off them.
Realised that Twitter and Google could give me vast amounts of market research if I looked in the right places. Twitter you ask? Yes, what are people saying about you market – just put in some key word searches and it’s amazing what you’ll find out.

Setup some 1:1 sessions with the business people I knew to get some information. Casual, non-directive approach to get their take on the market area, their issues etc. Really, really useful and it fed directly into both the product design and the marketing material that we will be using.

Did an on-line survey on survey monkey, pushed it out to everyone I knew of relevance and asked them to push it out further. I went to 50 people and over 132 filled it in within a couple of weeks. Encouragement to fill in the survey was supported by a prize – amazing how much of a difference this made to getting it done quickly.

And that was it. I was amazed at the information I received back – very little was redundant and it cost me about 200 Euro’s in the odd lunch, on-line survey and the prize.

Of course, I am not dismissing marketing experts or research forums at all in this. Their expertise is usually well worth the money being spent. I just wanted to let you know of helpful hints on how to do market research on a shoestring! Let me know you get on.

Budding entrepeneur working on software product solutions for business. My background is mainly operational and senior management roles in mobile telecoms and software houses. Areas of expertise include professional services, out-sourcing, team management and general operations management. I've made the conscious decision to create my own company having spent the last 20 years learning in the corporate world. In my contributions to this forum, I will share some insights and learnings that I've picked up along the way and hopefully they will be useful to some or all!

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  • Anonymous

    I quite like this quote. Let’s throw it on to the bonfire of debate!

    “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
    Stephen R. Covey

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Dermot – would ceratinly appreciate the Snowden & Boones piece, and while it’s hard to argue with Drucker – I think he was was a big fan of disciplined, sound management and not today’s fashion for leadership – as one of his quotes makes clear:
    “The three greatest leaders of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. If that’s leadership, I want no part of it.”

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Elaine – the story is actually a Covey analogy ( ties in with Greg’s quote below ) from his famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

    He describes the people cutting through the bush as ‘problem solvers’, they are clearing the way and then behind these people come the managers. The managers sharpen the machetes, write the policy and procedure manuals, hold muscle development programs, and set the schedules and compensation packages for the people with the machetes.

    According to Covey, the leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!”

    Unfortunately the people on the ground will often reply, “Shut up! We’re making excellent progress!”

  • Anonymous

    A friend of mine came up with this analogy, which I thought was worth sharing:

    My view – Not every manager is a good leader (obviously). But, I do
    think that every good leader needs to be able to manage. Otherwise,
    they get nowhere. A leader needs to be able to drive the car (manage)
    and navigate (lead) at the same time. It’s the ability to do both
    without ending up in the ditch that is the challenge.

  • Or hire a great navigator to help you get there! My understanding of good leadership is YES they need to be great managers, as all managers don’t necessarily become good Leaders. Leaders stand out from the crowd for various reasons, leadership (obviously) and being able to empower the right managers who will in turn empower their teams, who in turn will do a great job. We still need good managers, and in small business its always a challenge to be a great leader in your own company (hence the comment I made above about being able to work ON the business, and not get too bogged down IN the business).
    I think there may be a distinction here between small business owners and Irish SME’s. Does it make a difference?
    Kelvin – thanks for clarifying the jungle story – I read the Covey book, and have read a different version of it somewhere else also.

  • Anonymous

    A leader is someone who creates a future that wasn’t going to exist (e.g.Gandhi).

  • Barney, great post, it’s amazing the amount of smaller businesses that do no market research and as you point out, it really doesn’t need to be expensive. I consistently see new product launches without any one so much as having a single conversations with a potential customer. What’s even more amazing is that this is not only a small biz issue. When Dave Brock was over, he was able to give examples of larger (in some cases very large) companies falling into the same trap. It’s a strange world 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you Barney – Market Research and things like PR can be done creatively and very cost effective.


  • Anonymous

    I think that this is an excellent article and it shows the importance of market research in a new market or for a new product.

    I would also like to add that it can be invaluable to research your existing clients, just to find out how they are using your offerings, what they like about you and if perhaps they would like to write a testimonial – that also is invaluable insights you should obtain on a regular basis. Peter

  • Thanks Peter. You make an excellent point – existing customers are a superb way of receiving decent feedback on your products. They have stayed with you for a reason, it is the right thing to do to shout from the roof-tops why!

  • Absuluelty agree myprojecttracker I think more of this is needed, as much knocking on doors eye to ey stuf as possible. You will get feedback online, on phone, its company growth. Most peoples communication skills are through the roof. Lets unleash the talent.

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