Launching, directing, and growing a business is no child’s play. Anyone who’s ever been in a management position, whether as a solopreneur or in a big corporation, can testify to this. There are innumerable aspects to running a successful company, and the work required is layered and complex. That’s why it’s not uncommon that when a consultant is brought in to analyze a business’ strategy and performance, they find critical issues that have been overlooked or disregarded – one of them being market research.
It’s important to point out that choosing a target market can be a complex endeavor in itself and the topic for a whole book. For the intents of this article’s objective, we’ll presuppose that it has already been selected appropriately. It’s at that point when getting to know potential customers becomes essential. However, many business owners fail to see that the information obtained through a research process would allow them to offer higher intrinsic value, create more solid bonds, and stand out from the competition. In fact, in many cases, good research can be the single determining factor between success and failure, because it’s one of the most effective ways of validating models, strategies, and offerings.
There are many examples of companies that have experienced huge flops and/or amazing wins thanks to leveraged data (or lack of). An infamous historical case was the launch of the “new Coke”, in the ’80s. Coca-Cola had spent years doing specific taste tests that demonstrated a wide acceptance of an enhanced Coke formula that was meant to replace the original one. However, these studies didn’t take into account the significance of brand affinity for the consumers of this product. Loyal customers weren’t OK with their beloved soda being altered, so the new flavor wasn’t well accepted. In this case, the market research that was done was incomplete, it didn’t take into account some of the variables that needed to be assessed before making such an important decision.
A more contemporary example belongs to the furniture company “Wayfair”. They launched an app that people could use to take photos of any furniture they encountered in their daily lives. The application would then show the user similar Wayfair products they could purchase, and other brand items that matched their preferences. Not only was it a great marketing idea, but it was a market research tool in itself, as it was feeding the company data about their customers that they could use to understand how to serve them better, both in the present and in the future.
The assumption mistake
Research costs time, resources, and effort. On top of that, there are many different approaches and ways of doing it, and they all serve different purposes. For those reasons, many of those who do consider doing some market research might get overwhelmed and discouraged. As they start learning about the prices, methodologies, and alternatives, excuses and arguments as to why it might not be necessary to do it start popping up. This is when a very common critical thinking error tends to kick in: the assumption mistake.
Sometimes, our desire for something to be a certain way is so strong, that it’ll unconsciously make us see it that way, even if it’s not accurate.
Assumptions are concepts and ideas that are accepted as true without proof. A tight budget, impatience, and lack of knowledge about the topic can push a hesitant business owner to decide against doing research. If they were seriously considering doing it, at this point in time they’ll have to come up with an excuse they can give themselves to justify skipping it. An extremely common one is the following assumption: They can use the three or four people they know that belong to the target as a reference for their whole market. Even worse, when they are part of the target themselves, they’ll think it’s OK to use personal insights as their sole source of information to make important decisions about their company and product.
Because we are prone to making this thinking error frequently, in all areas of our daily lives, it can go unnoticed very easily. Whenever we draw an absolute conclusion about a person, situation, or topic based on limited information, we are making an assumption. Sometimes, our desire for something to be a certain way is so strong, that it’ll unconsciously make us see it that way, even if it’s not accurate. These repetitive behaviors tend to get ingrained and become part of our habitual way of functioning. However, to become aware of them and the havoc they may cause, is enough for a change to start taking place.
Where to begin?
There are many ways to approach target market research, and a wide range of modalities that grant access to a variety of data: from general consumer psychology to product satisfaction, strategy efficacy, etc. Getting started might seem difficult and overwhelming, but keep in mind that, no matter the resources available or business size, it’s ALWAYS beneficial to do as much market research as possible. Collecting information about the people that matter most is essential to make the right choices; choices that are ultimately about them and for them.
Being thorough and methodical is the way to make the most of this process. It’s important to try and minimize skews and to learn how to leverage the collected data optimally. Qualified professionals who fully understand how to approach this task efficiently and impartially, will deliver the best results. Ventures with bulkier budgets can look into hiring experts, and smaller businesses can engage freelance consultants (or smaller firms) who can provide guidance and support.
For those with very limited resources, the DIY (do it yourself) approach is the way to go. This group has the highest risk of making unconscious assumptions and other mistakes, due to their lack of experience and their personal investment in the company/product/idea being assessed. It’s crucial to get prepared through literature, information, and training on the topic. It’s also very important to keep in mind that, at the very least, a group of thirty people who are truly representative of the target market should be used as a sample (instead of a bunch of Facebook friends from your personal social circle).
Growth, connection, and purpose
It’s true that market research can be challenging, but it’s also true that there are many ways of making it more approachable. As we’ve mentioned before, whatever time, energy, and resources are allocated to this process, will most likely have a positive impact on business development, no matter where in its lifespan it’s at.
Not only will it probably help accelerate its growth curve and increase its revenue potential, but it’ll accomplish something far more profound: help a business gain purpose. Relevant information leads to better offerings, which make consumers feel understood and satisfied. In consequence, stronger bonds between provider and client are formed.
When a business owner genuinely wants to deliver more value and contribute to the collective wellbeing through their offering, good things tend to unfold naturally. Being able to go beyond the stark objective of “more sales, more revenue” can take a business to a whole new level, which will anyways be reflected in their growth. This means that, ironically, those truly interested in their customers have more chances of being commercially successful than those who are solely invested in generating profit; and who don’t even bother looking up to see the face of the person handing them the money.
When a business prioritizes serving its customers by providing true value over just making a profit, it creates a spiral of positive action with incredibly powerful consequences, and that not doing it can be as catastrophic as selecting the wrong target in the first place. This activity can always provide new and valuable information to make more informed decisions of all sorts, and at any stage of development.
It’s undeniable that being part of a meaningful endeavor is something inspiring and motivating.
Cover image source: Startup Stock Photos