Market Research is a broad term. I’ve been assisting with market research from many angles since my first product marketing job in the early 90’s. This was my first non support position, and my role was learn everything there was to learn about IBM CAUs and LAMs (and no, these weren’t farm animals). I was to buy used devices low, our team would refurbish them, and sell a warrantied used product (think ‘certified used car’) at less than new.
Coming from tech support – the market research I knew about these things is that they were INDESTRUCTABLE. I don’t know if I ever had one come back under warranty – and who cared if they did – we were buying them by the truck load at $50 a pop and selling $1000 or MORE to those die hard IBMers who didn’t think collision technology made any sense. I understood how easy they were to install and I knew that if people were purchasing them used at $1000 instead of $2000 new – they were happy.
As a product manager, my scope of market research expanded. I now had to understand all the different competitive aspects of implementing CAUs and LAMS – upgrading from MAUs or even upgrading from sneaker net. There were knock-off brands of CAUs and LAMs with different management consoles and a smaller profile for less money. And – selling used to some was challenging, where others were happy to save the dollars.
From a mar comm position, I had to come up with unique programs to maintain our sales growth. When we did a good buy – sometimes we did buy 2 get one 1/2 off. This saved the customer a lot and made us lots, too. Each month we came out with a new catalogue that shipped to our customers and prospects – and updated our web presence. These prices and specials needed to hold for 30 days.
From a sales position, I learned what motivated the buyers. From our partners, we learned why sometimes it was worth buying from other dealers at $500/ea to keep our customers from looking elsewhere for product. I became an expert at the new and used markets of CAUs and LAMs from every aspect and kept my eyes on the new products often cheaper, faster, and smaller that were coming out and whether or not our trajectory of these products would continue. A national insurance company was our largest customer. When they made the move along with some key hospital accounts – we knew the market was moving, and that to maintain our stock position would allow us to actually increase our sell price because the used market was drying up. The dynamics of the market shifted weekly, and it was exciting to participate.
Once the US market dried up – we started to sell to brokers in other countries – why – because their clients had another year or so of traction with these products.
I share this story with you in the hopes that you understand there is no perfect answer to market research. Keep asking questions, keep your eyes open on other similar products, and see if marketing programs in other industries might apply to yours. Do your best to not get stuck behind the computer on this. Give yourself a break – get out there and sell your products – and add your learning as you go. Put a tickler on your calendar to regularly review the market with your team – and set up an RSS feed page to pull in the information on the keywords/markets that matter.
Most of all – realize everyday a new twist could appear that will shake your model to its core. It is part of the game of business life – and finding your way in a strange land is part of the fun.
What do you think?