Market research

Market Research Without Giving Too Much Away

Ben Dooley Digital and Product Strategy, Analytics, Business Development

June 6th, 2018

Hi Everyone,

I'm working on an idea, and need to expand my market research to better direct MVP development. I have talked to the two friends and family I have that would be in the target market, but am getting conflicting functional requirements. Supporting both will put a drain on limited startup resources.

The idea is not patentable as it stands, so it could be easily replicated in the beginning if too much is divulged.

Ideally I need to talk to 10-15 additional potential consumers of the product. I am concerned that this could tip the hand on the product too quickly.

Has anyone else dealt with this? If so, how did you get the data you needed to make an informed decision?

Thank you in advance!

Arvind Prakash Singh Serial Entrepreneur. Founder Stealth-mode Startup. Cofounder Furdo , Vrixx. Goldman, Fanuc, Infosys.

June 6th, 2018

Good question, Ben. A common answer to a Founder’s concern that an idea may get stolen is : - Ideas are dime a dozen. Execution is what matters - When people try to copy a product, they copy the present. They won’t know the history nor the future/vision. Which also means - what do you see the product/service evolve to in next decade or so? If you don’t have a good answer then you are probably building for the present. - Most people dont care about an idea. Most people are not entrepreneurs. Most people always wanted to break out of the mould but they never could. The main query about how to interview or identify the MVP: You need to apply the concepts of Design Thinking here. An innovation cycle starts with observations and interviews. The purpose of this step is only to understand the customer and the persons environemnt, the pain areas and potential gain creators. The best part is that you Don’t need to talk about your product or idea yet. Have open needed questions and don’t fall for confirmation bias. If you do this well, you could get a lot of meat here. Lookup - Berkeley Innovation cycle/ Need finding interviews/ Design thinking / Value Proposition Design for more. After you have done a few interviews , see if you are able to distill our key insights about the customer and the market and the needs. For these needs, see what ideas or solutions you could possibly have. You could now bounce some of these ideas with customers you are comfortable with. The final step is to conduct experiments for the chosen idea. Trust me, if the idea turns out to be working after you have gone live with it, you will have competition in no time. So better to be prepared on how your company always stays ahead of the pack. Feel free to reach out for any more info. Cheers APS -- — Sent from my iPhone. Forgive the brevity, the typos and the lack of nuance.

Jared Ruddy Partner, Think Plan Thrive. Founder, FitCat. MBA. Marketing and Innovation Specialist for a decade.

June 7th, 2018

Hey Ben

It's been mentioned here already, but I think it's worth saying again - getting ideas to market is hard, and IP isn't stolen half as much as you think.

I want to address your IP concern first. We come across it a lot - we work with countless startups to help them in this stage of getting an idea of paper, shaping and validating it. The key groups you should be worried about are those who have the ability to execute your idea quickly. That's competitors. Companies who sell similar or complimentary products. Especially if they have good relationships with manufacturers, engineers and so on. But honestly, you shouldn't be too worried. Making things happen is hard. Even a company with all the resources in place will have second thoughts on copying your thing, as it's risky and involved cash they could otherwise use for profitable, proven activity.

On research, I've found that there's rarely such a thing as too much for something like this. It's just a case of doing it efficiently. You'll get differing points of view. That's expected. You just need the big picture to see the wood from the trees. And to get that, you need a lot of opinions. 10 - 15 is a start. But you should be aiming for much more.

Don't just try to understand whether they like it.

Focus on their needs.

The problems they face.

How you're solving it (is it the best way?).

And of course who they are (family members isn't a market segment :))

These are all questions that can be asked publicly without giving away anything.

There are many ways to do it. Getting in front of people, face to face is just one (and though very valuable, it's time consuming).

Online surveys are great.

RESEARCH is often overlooked. If there's a similar product available, can you find reviews on amazon, google shopping or the app store?

Lean testing is also great - we bake it into many of our projects and mentoring programmes.

Consider building a landing page.

Putting a little money behind FB ads.

You'll be able to test interest in a product by measuring sign ups to know more and clicks. And with this data, you can test value propositions, and audiences, right down to their interests.

I hope that's helped. I've included a link to one of our articles where we run through some of these techniques below.

--> How to use research to create great products that sell. <--



Tavis McGinn Founder, Honest Data, Inc.

June 7th, 2018

Hi Ben. Great question. First, I would assume that there are 100's of people around the world with the same idea. Most of them will fail because simply possessing the idea does not guarantee success. Coming up with the idea represents the first 0.0001% of your journey. You will still need to make literally thousands of decisions related to the product, the user experience, the marketing, the pricing, the strategic partnerships, hiring talent, etc. The sum of these ideas is your brand and your company. It's also your protection from competitors. Investors don't just invest in ideas, they invest in people (teams). They know that the idea will evolve over time and they want the right people at the "helm" to guide the company along the way. Once you launch your business, "stealth mode" disappears and your idea will become commonplace. In fact, you'll be spending good money to share your idea with as many people as possible (aka "marketing" and "PR"). If at that point your idea can be easily copied, then you will see a rush of competitors and any first-mover-advantage will quickly be eroded. Your business model shouldn't rely entirely on being the first-to-market, it should rely on being the best-to-market. How can you execute your idea better than any other team? How can you create barriers to competitors other than just a head start? In my opinion, the risk of launching the "wrong" product is greater than the risk of your idea "leaking." Some spaces (like online dating) actually perform better when there are multiple companies in the market, because each serves the needs of a different segment. That being said, it is very, very common for founders to feel a strong sense of "protection" over their idea. It can start to feel like Golem staring at the One Ring and murmuring "My precious..." I know that feeling because I have experienced it personally. And we all hear horror stories like the Winklevoss twins at Harvard. But the truth is, you should be sharing your idea with potential customers from Day 1 while you're developing the product. I was fortunate enough to take a class called "Lean Launchpad" at UC Berkeley (a bootcamp for startups) and one of the key tenants was "you must talk to at least 10 potential customers every week." The person who taught the course, Steve Blank, argued that businesses should not build products in hiding and in isolation because it drastically increases their chances of failure. Sadly, I have seen this happen many, many times. I have lived in San Francisco for six years. I worked at a startup, then Google, then Facebook. I now own a market research agency that works with a lot of funded startups and tech companies that launch new products regularly. A common story in the Bay Area is: "Brilliant engineer forms startup based on a top-secret idea. Startup receives a pile of cash from prominent VCs. Startup hires the best engineers who have to keep everything a secret. Engineers build the product in secret, focusing on the type of product they would personally buy. Product launches with a lot of hype. Product falls flat because it wasn't relevant to consumers." Unfortunately, if you wait too long to talk to consumers, you may find that you've gone too far down one path and it's too late to pivot or turn back. You may have wasted all your resources building the wrong product. I have seen this many, many times before (sadly). Remember that your idea has to be relevant for it to gain adoption. The best way to build a relevant product is to let consumers "get involved" as early as possible. Your idea might be really strong, but it will only get stronger as you talk to people about it. They will suggest a lot of "tweaks" to your idea (and how to execute it). Those tweaks will become your secret sauce more than just the idea by itself. Once you stop worrying about your idea getting "leaked," you will actually feel a weight has been lifted on your shoulders and you'll feel the comfort that comes from knowing that your idea isn't perfect and you need consumers to help you make it better. Asking people for feedback on your idea can sometimes feel like an emotional roller coaster, so it may be helpful to enlist a friend to help with the interviews since they can be more objective. Good luck!

Nick Hodges Founder, CEO of Halcium, distributed wind energy cheaper than solar.

June 8th, 2018

Truthfully, once you get MVP you're going to have a hell of a time convincing other people that your idea is worth anything. Investors, co-founders, customers, etc. They won't have the long-term vision that you will. They'll just see something incomplete, won't think it's worth anything, and probably won't try to steal it.

If you're super worried about it, put people under an NDA.

Matt Ferguson NBA. Coffee. Jazz. In no particular order.

June 6th, 2018

Hey Ben!

I have been in this position before and it’s definitely a tough spot to be in.

I actually use this anonymous polling app —Impulse— that way my question is mixed into a que and everything is anonymous as not to give away what I am working while in stealth mode.

Hope this helps! 😬

Arvind Prakash Singh Serial Entrepreneur. Founder Stealth-mode Startup. Cofounder Furdo , Vrixx. Goldman, Fanuc, Infosys.

June 6th, 2018

Holycow! What happened to the formatting that was in the email reply ? Sorry for the eye sore people. CFLab - plz junk the email response feature if you can’t preserve the formatting. -- — Sent from my iPhone. Forgive the brevity, the typos and the lack of nuance.

Allegra McNeally Cofounder & CEO @Blynk Technology

June 7th, 2018

What's the target market? It is a demographic that talks a lot online or with people in startup mode? If not, don't worry about it. As Arvind stated, execution is the most important -- The likelihood of someone taking your idea and developing it is slim, unless they're already doing something related and could incorporate your angle in. So - if they're in your space, don't talk to them, talk to someone else. 10-15 isn't a high number, you should be able to find that many that aren't entrepreneurial in any demographic.

Maybe describe your target market a bit more if you need more specific suggestions on how to survey them.

Best of luck!

Danielle Akinbade Graphics designer, web developer, UI/UX Designer

Last updated on June 7th, 2018

I feel you should put your ideas in versions, so your version give what your trying to explain but not too much, and it can be done using workflow, hope you find this useful.

Byron Batres Founder & CEO, Certified Financial Planner, Fin Tech, Spanish, E-Commerce Experience

June 7th, 2018

Ben, Sounds tricky… I also developed an idea that has not IP defense. Happy to talk about it with you. I guess depends on the product/service your potential customers aren’t normally the they types to do the hard work of starting and executing on an idea. The faster you get to market is your only defense.

Ben Dooley Digital and Product Strategy, Analytics, Business Development

June 8th, 2018

Thanks everyone for your wonderful input. This is such a great community!