From Chapter 9 of The Savvy Guide To Making More Money
Your market research must extend beyond your immediate circle. You need to show your product or describe your service to your target market, and see what potential customers tell you. Depending on their reaction, you can now actively market your offering. Or you go back to the drawing board.
I recently told a business mentor about an idea that I was mulling over. She said, 'The best thing you could do is to send me a one-page business plan. Let me introduce you to two senior people in the industry and get them to tell you what they don't like.' In that short sentence, she outlined an ideal framework for doing market research:
Finding your market
Articulate your offering in a short, concise way - if the person giving you feedback can't understand quickly what you're talking about, you've approached them too early, as you're not sufficiently prepared and your offering isn't sufficiently clear.
Find people who don't have any vested interest in your confidence - in this scenario, it literally pays to be cruel to be kind. Of course, your pride may take a bit of a battering, but when did you last have a human connection with the person who manufactured the washing powder, stapler or online gift card that you bought? If you weren't satisfied, did you stop to consider the feelings of the manufacturer before you criticized their product? No, because the product has to stand on its own.
Elicit the views of people who have experience. Let's say that I've come up with a revolutionary type of nappy and then as a board member of a charitable organization I bring it to the next meeting and ask everybody around the table to give me feedback. They nervously glance at one another before one bravely tells me that none of them have children. Wouldn't that be a useful focus group? Alternatively, I could go to a local parent-and-toddler group and ask them, as people who potentially buy, use and dispose of nappies on a daily basis. I can watch for their reactions, listen to their comments and note their suggestions, as that group of people is totally representative of the kind of customer who scans a shop shelf for a quick solution to a crying child with wet padding.
Listen out for and focus on the negatives - a tip that is so totally against my outlook that it troubles me even to write that sentence. But if there was ever a time for constructive criticism, it is now. You absolutely need to hear what is wrong. Why don't they like it? Why wouldn't they buy it? What would they change? Why would they choose the competition?
The business mentor could see my face falling when she said, 'Let them tell you what they don't like', and she smiled. She told me that one of the reasons for failure early on in any entrepreneurial journey is that the founder is too busy admiring their product, while the market sees it as below par.