Research at the Speed of the Market
The business world moves fast. Does your research keep pace?
By the time you finish reading this post, your company may have a daunting new competitor. Technology moves fast. You may have broken significant ground, launched a category, and created marketplace buzz. Inevitably, though, new companies have jumped in the game. Now they’re beginning to steal market share. What’s an innovator to do?
The Innovator’s Dilemma
Product managers/marketers are by nature innovative. Occasionally, a great product or feature will spring fully-formed from their heads and take the market by storm. But divine intervention is risky. It assumes an uncommon, intimate knowledge of the market.
Conducting market research that continually takes the temperature of more than your direct customer is a solution to the innovator’s dilemma. Gaps exist, and skilled insights teams can find them. But running effective voice of customer programs that keep pace with the ever-changing nature of customers remains an Achilles heel for B2B companies – especially in today’s fast-paced environment. To succeed, you need to a research strategy that is “always-on.”
What is the Listening Game?
The Listening Game is simple, and a taking a few quick steps can immediately improve the quality of your marketplace feedback program.
Implement “Always–On” Research – To compete today, you need to get ahead of change. Creating a constant and iterative feedback loop is a great place to start. Customer needs will change over time, and you must talk to both current and potential future customers to understand what they are thinking now. Regularly get inside their heads to develop empathy for their daily frustrations.
Synthesize these results into product hypotheses and further test these hypotheses against panels. Be ready to quickly iterate, pivot, and repeat as needed. This requires a seamless process that keeps pace with modern product development processes. Qualitative and quantitative research need to be conducted on the fly, allowing your trained insights professionals to spend more time synthesizing the results of your findings and less time on administrative tasks.
Talk to All the Right People – Figure out who you need to talk to (current customers, potential future customers, ex-customers, competitors’ customers, etc.). What do they need? If they’re competitor’s customers, are they happy? If they are not currently customers in your market, do they experience pain points that you can solve? What can you do that would give you the edge? Are there needs that nobody is fulfilling that you can (and should) fill?
Create a professional hierarchy of profiles and then a strategy for reaching them. Remember, the quality of your panels will make or break the quality of your results. All too often we see research collators throw away large chunks of their results due to the low quality of respondents. Be sure that you are not suffering from a garbage-in, garbage-out model.
Perhaps you conduct regular surveys or in-depth interviews, or -even better- a combination of both. If you’re to win the Listening Game, it’s best to gather both qualitative and quantitative information. Anecdotal data can inform how you approach every target persona.
Research at the Speed of Change
The most successful companies do not stay the same across time. They adapt to new needs, create new features -or even product lines- to stay competitive and to stake out market share in new sectors. This moves fast. Trying to keep up without the right information risks heading down expensive paths that lead to nowhere. You need a steady cadence of input from all your customers to move at the speed of the marketplace.
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Jeff Buddle has more than 15 years of experience as a marketer, writer, and journalist. He is currently Director of Content Marketing at GLG. Previously he spent 3 years leading marketing efforts at Madison Logic. He had prior stints at Voltari, SourceMedia and BtoB Magazine. He kicked off his marketing career as Editorial Director at Aberdeen Group.