Marketing Research:  Asking and Answering Many Questions

Early in my marketing career I  was a product manager.  At the time I  was responsible for a line of medical products, used principally in institutional settings.  For discussion here – let’s call them “widgets”.  My ambition was to be the “best widget product manager in the world”.  It wasn’t a high bar, there were probably a grand total of 10 worldwide, but that was my goal nonetheless.  One thing I did know was that the path to achieve my goal included extensive Marketing Research.


Get Comfortable With Asking Questions


My approach to being the best in the world was to develop a comprehensive list of questions, covering EVERYTHING there is to know about widgets.  A few examples are below:

  1. Who makes the decision to purchase widgets in a facility?

  2. What are the specs on the different types of material they use to manufacture widgets?

  3. Is the market price for widgets changing (up or down)

  4. How often are they replaced in a facility?

  5. How does the facility maintain them?

  6. Who are the main competitors for widgets?

  7. How can we make the widgets better?

My goal was to come up with 100 questions (I  think I  ended up with about 75 total).  To answer the questions took quite a bit of research.  Much of it I  had to conduct myself with help from my colleagues (Primary Research).  I  also took advantage of Secondary Research (valuable information done by some other party).  

When I  was done answering the 75 questions, I  felt confident that I  was the best widget product manager in the world!  A few years later my company went on to become the industry leader in widgets, and I  think a good portion of that success was rooted in the research we conducted.

Regardless of the industry you are in, it makes sense to become very informed on your product or service.  If you strive to be the “best in the world” you might just achieve that goal.  But even if you come up a bit short, the process of conducting the research will likely result in a stronger presence in your marketplace.

To give you a head start here are a few common research tactics and sources:

Primary Research Tactics:

  1. Customer meetings/interviews

  2. End user interviews

  3. Supplier/distributor meetings

  4. Raw material suppliers – for example – if you are in plastics business, you can ask resin suppliers. 

  5. Regular Google search with a framed question:  “Latest advancements in XYZ market”

  6. Create simple surveys on social media or via inexpensive services like Survey Monkey

  7. Follow competitors on social media

  8. Call your competition (or have a friend do it) and pretend to be a customer.  You can learn quite a bit.

  9. Become a student of your competitor’s Website, and look for features/functions you can incorporate into yours.

Secondary Research Sources:

  1. Market/Industry research:

  2. Trade publications

  3. Linkedin Industry groups

  4. Free whitepapers (usually have to fill out an online form)

  5. Local Small Business Association (SBA)

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