As a start-up founder, it’s likely you have a lot on your plate. Setting up a business is no easy feat, but you possess the passion and drive to see your idea come to life.
However, when you’re in a business day in, day out, it can be hard to see things objectively. Many start-up founders assume that customers will understand their product or service - but being so close to your product or service often skews your perception of things.
This is where using market research can truly make or break your business. In the start-up stages, every single little detail counts. When your funds are limited, you can’t afford to make tens of mistakes. Market research can help to pre-empt any difficulties in your business’s offering and ultimately save you time, money and resources.
So why should I use market research?
The term “market research” can seem scary or daunting, particularly if you’ve never done any before. But in its simplest form, market research will help you to understand your customers better. It can also help you to...
- Discover what your ideal customers like and dislike
- Discover who your customers might be in terms of demographics
- Find out how they feel about your current brand and product
- Find out how they feel about your competitors’ brands or products
- Compare your offering to what is already out there
- Find out if they will actually USE or have a need for your product or service
- Discover whether people understand your product or service
In the early stages of your business, how you spend your money is of the utmost importance. One of the worst things you can do is waste your limited resources on something that you don't actually know will be a hit with your ideal customers.
As much as YOU back the product, the opinion of the people buying it is of paramount importance.
Practical ways to utilise market research as a start-up founder
So many start-ups have failed because they had a great idea, but they didn't refine the idea and launched it when it was still in its infancy. Had they done more research in the initial stages, the business might have been a success.
Just recently we received a marketing email from Notion - in it, they said “Notion almost died in 2015. We were building a product that we thought was cool — not a product that people needed. Our mission was (and still is) to give people the tools to customise their own software, but there was something missing. So my co-founder and I went back to the drawing board.”
You see - going back to the drawing board is not a bad thing. It’s much better to spend time honing your idea and launching when things are right than rushing to get your product out without ample market research.
Many start-ups simply don't have the funds to spend thousands of pounds on the help of a market research agency. However, the good news is there are ample opportunities to compile market research yourself that won’t cost you a penny.
If you have a list of email subscribers who are interested in your company, you can use this for market research. If you have already launched your business, you can also ask your email subscribers for feedback.
It’s a good idea to offer people an incentive to give you their thoughts - this can be as simple as a £50 gift voucher to someone at random who has clicked through and taken the survey.
You can create a survey for free using software like Survey Monkey or Google Forms. Think about what questions will be the most beneficial for you as a business. What do you want to find out from your customers? What is vital information that you need to discover to best serve them? Think about how many questions you are asking people - survey respondents get fatigued or drop out if surveys are too long. Try and keep it short and simple.
Where possible, ask someone who doesn't work in your business to look over the survey before it goes live to make sure your question wording isn't biased or misleading and that you’ve covered all bases. Using an external agency is always beneficial in this situation because your survey is compiled by experts who will know the right questions to ask.
Often our clients come to us because they want to understand very specific things about their target customers. We also have links to hundreds of panels around the world - so if you need data from a very specific sub-category of person, I.e mothers in Spain who have a Netflix subscription, we can find those people on your behalf.
Not only this but once we have gathered the responses we can look through the data and compile a full report that’s easy to understand based on our findings.
Social media feedback
Even if you only have a small following on social media, utilise it! You can either write some social media posts that direct followers to your survey (again, using an incentive is a great way to encourage people to complete it) or you could use your Instagram stories.
For Instagram stories, either use the poll function to ask a question or the question and answer box function. These are two very simple but effective tools you can use to get quick, easy feedback and to find out more about your audience.
For example, you could put a few different polls up asking "Are you 1. Male 2. Female" or "Do you prefer 1. Driving to work 2. Walking to work". If you have more than two potential answers to a question, use the "Quiz" function to give people the option to pick from multiple answers. However please bear in mind that when you use the quiz, it will look as though there is a “right” answer when in reality there isn’t. It’s worth writing a disclaimer so that your respondents are aware of this.
Focus groups are an amazing opportunity to gather in-person feedback from your customers. Again, we would recommend offering a goodwill gesture to participants to thank them for giving up their time to take part.
To compile a focus group, invite 5-10+ customers together in a group scenario and ask them questions about whatever it is that you're trying to gather feedback on. You may want to consider hiring a professional moderator for this, many work freelance.
Focus groups are particularly useful when you want feedback on branding or any kind of design work. If you are struggling to make a decision, who better to ask than customers or people who are already interested in your brand?
There are lots of ways that you can utilise market research as a start-up founder but these are some of the best ways - have you tried any of these methods before?
Get in touch
If you would like any further advice or you are interested in potentially working with us, we would love to hear from you! Feel free to send us an email at email@example.com