Market research · Product Development

Is market research necessary for a new product not yet prototyped?

Elise Krentzel

June 28th, 2016

A client of mine has invented a consumer product which is now in the development stage. There are competitive products on the market yet they are more "hobby" or homemade solutions. His product is a huge upgrade in this segment. He's an engineer.

Steve Owens Startup Expert

June 28th, 2016

Market Validation is the first step to any product development processes.

If your a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

No surprise the engineer does not want to do marketing.

BTW - I am an engineer too.

Eugene Gekhter CEO, Memorable. Founder, SharePay.

June 28th, 2016

Best $500 your client will ever spend...
Design a survey with SurveyMonkey and use their audience tool to distribute the survey based on the consumer product's target demographic.

You will know with statistically significant results whether your assumptions are correct.

Joe Dew Product Management - eCommerce, marketplaces, and machine learning

June 28th, 2016

I disagree with the sentiment that market research is always valuable. It depends. There are a lot of products and concepts that would never "survive" market research. Imagine trying to do market research on Twitter before it was launched. No one would understand it or feel a need for it. What exactly is the "market" for Twitter? Hard to say because it's a revolutionary product.

In fact, I've seen cases where market research takes you down the wrong path. That's because most people don't really know what they want or they can't succinctly describe what hasn't yet been built. And we know through tons of data analysis that what people say vs. how they actually behave are very different things.

If the product is already built, put it out there in the market and learn what happens. Real customers are the best way to understand product market fit.

Ken Berkun Entrepreneur

June 28th, 2016

Per above, not even an option.  Must be done.  Otherwise who knows what kind of rat hole you'll be going down.  And I am sceptical of anything that claims to "revolutionize" anything.  That's a pretty good hint that he doesn't really know what's going on.  Revolutions happen, but not that often.

Deirdre Davi EVP, Strategy at Sterling Brands

June 28th, 2016

Great thinking so far here.  
There is definitely a need for market sizing, but I think that comes later.  You have to have a market, which means you have to have a product positioned in a category (existing or new) in a way that is differentiated.  To be differentiated, you have to know WHO the product is for, WHAT they will do with it (often different than what you expect), and WHY they need it over the way they behave now.  It's much harder to change human behavior than people think, so unless you define the audience and then talk to them and refine in the very early days, you're building something that might be interesting for R&D, but isn't a commercial product.  There is no substitute for talking to real humans in person in the very early stages about the concept and early mock-ups.  There are usually surprises in who will use it within the target set, why they'll use it, and which one or two things are the reasons they will use it over something else.  You can't position 25 features, but you can position (and build for) the one reason your audience will use something.  Market feedback is the best way to understand what the one differentiator/reason to use is out of the 25 features.   It can be very light and inexpensive too - think of the cost of 8 phone interviews, for example....

Mychal Werner Marketing at Exciting new Venture

June 28th, 2016

Assessing the market should not ever end, and it not just looking at competition.  It makes you smarter about your customers, who's actions, needs, thoughts and workflows  you want to intimately know 

Initially it makes sure your product is validated and has an audience, as it progresses, you build a community in your market which you can use to gather more information about product need & positioning, weigh feature tradeoff, and allow you to have an accessible audience for testing, etc.

It is a huge mistake not to round out the product vision with marketing insights.

Sidney Sclar SID the SECURITY PRO at

June 28th, 2016

Look at all the replies to date.  Isn't networking great?  Consider beta testing in lieu of more market research.

Ema Chuku Product Developer. Founder.

June 28th, 2016

I personally believe in market validation but only after the product has been created. Realistically, the market is made up of people and people do not know what they need or want (ironically speaking). So there will always be an inconclusive and biased market research value for a product.

That said, engineers and artists have one thing in common, they think their product is too good and should be accepted by the market with less hassle. So that's where the problem lies. In the end, you will need to test a market to get a product validation, unless you have too much money for the media to go through the hype process. (Example, the introduction of iPhones).

William Seidel President & CEO, America Invents

June 28th, 2016

Elise, there is no product. There is a Product Concept. All of the rules change for early stage product concepts; it can't be tested, it's not proven, and it's expensive. Early stage concepts have a totally different approach than a Complete Product with 1,000 packaged and available to test.

If the intent is to license it is a totally different approach of marketing the concept to a license agreement. This impacts the development.

In truth, it doesn't matter how good the product is, it only matters how good your marketing is because that determines how well it sells. (Engineers never understand this and marketing studies it and the innovators are making it happen.) Chia Pet (over $200 million) and Billy Bob Teeth (over 22 million sold) could not be given away in the beginning. All early stage indications pointed to failure. It's the same with Cabbage Patch Kids, Trivial Pursuit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Super Soaker - all labeled as failures from the biggest companies in the business and the list goes on.

Mychal, you are correct, marketing never ends and it makes you smarter about your product and your business. I couldn't say it better or simpler.

Jane Schek Bilingual Qualitative Research Facilitator and Moderator

June 29th, 2016

That his product is a "huge upgrade in this segment" is an assumption or an hypothesis, if you prefer that wording. If true, great, if not your friend can sink a pile of time and money pushing it into the market or trying to find out why it's not selling. Test the assumption behind the concept. With real people. That means talking to people who are in the market for this - users and non-users of current offers. What are their issues, what do they do, not do, why, why not? You need to find out if there is even a problem out there which people are prepared to make an effort to get a solution for. You don't even need to show them the concept - it's about understanding their mindset in the context of the solution. What is the job which this product promises to get done and is anyone prepared to hire it to do so? If you don't want to pay for an expert to help you do this, I recommend "The Mom Test" by Rob Fitzpatrick for some useful DIY tips on talking to customers. It is so easy and cheap to get a read from the real world, even engineers can benefit from getting out of the building! Good luck!