That’s the question I was thinking about while I interviewed Dr. Maria Blekher, the founding director of the innovation lab and a Clinical Associate Professor at the Sy Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University for The Mountain Pass, our podcast at Alpe Audio about lifelong learning.
As an early stage founder, working on a product 25/7, the question of market research brings up mixed feelings. On the one hand, I know how important it is. The concept of being data driven has already swept most industries. Tracking usage, analyzing data, talking to users, performing surveys and conducting primary and secondary research are all par for the course these days in the entrepreneurial world. So I know exactly how important it is.
More than that, I’ve been firmly convinced over the past 2 years working on Alpe that the process of product development is the only thing that one can get right – not the outcome. While we like to trust our gut, the truth is that our gut is often wrong. More often than not to be honest. And so the only way to alleviate that is to conduct a proper product development process.
Guess what is a key part of any product development process? You guessed it: Market research. That’s why Applied Market Research courses are in demand. The skills are used no matter what stage of product you’re working on.
Here’s how Dr. Blekher explains it in our interview:
When you say, why do we need market research? Well, if you have a company, or if you have an idea, you have to understand your target market. Without that. No, there is nothing there for you to do. And so one of the probably biggest mistakes companies and startups are doing is they are designing or developing this amazing product, which has the best features and then their approach to market and say, well, we designed this beautiful thing for you, and they want to buy it. And the market says Well, it’s beautiful, but no, I don’t need it. ….. And market research when properly done and designed, and when done, consistently, can help founders and business owner and companies to bridge this knowledge gap and understand what are the needs in the market.
Market research in other words helps founders bridge the gap between their product and the market.
The problem is that conducting proper market research is hard.
While a lot of what goes into market research is common sense – things like asking for feedback, tracking data points and conducting user interviews – unlike many other fields, in market research, the nuances really matter. If you word a question the wrong way, you could be asking 200 people for feedback and get great feedback, but unknowingly, you’d be leading all those people down a predetermined path that invalidates their feedback. So simple, yet so critical.
This is the complexity of applying proper market research and why dedicating the time to learn it properly matters. A wrongly worded question, a wrong test or sample group and all your research goes *poof* up in smoke.
While I believe that many domains can be picked up and learned on the go, I don’t think that’s the case for market research. Sure, figuring out the TAM (total addressable market) can be done and learned on your own, but learning how to interview users isn’t. It requires best practices and knowing how to word a question and what to listen for in feedback (The Mom Test is a must read for this which is why we just made a book club about it on Alpe).
Another example that’s hard to pick up on the go is surveys. How many respondents do you need? What order should you put your questions in? What scales do you use? There’s actually a science to conducting research, and you should take the time to learn the basics. Applied Market research courses are the basis for that, which is why I highly recommend you give it a try.
To get you on your way, we’ve put together some of our favorite resources: