Thursday, November 10, 2005

Market Research Dilemma: Everybody wants to talk to End Users and Buyers....

I have been working on some market research / validation projects for software firms in the past few months, and it apparent that many software companies are really searching to find that all elusive, all knowing, all seeing.....(sorry, this sounds like "The Amazing Carnak" routine)....

Well, you catch my drift: we all want to interview the perfect end users & buyers who can provide the perfect insights that drive product strategy, sales models employed, pricing / value, and brand awareness. All of us; meaning 20,000 give or take software firms. That's a lot of phone call / email campaigns, all hitting the same group of buyers. To wit:

  • End users in general (i.e. 'C' level executives: CIO, CTO) get pinged constantly with a barrage of calls and emails from software vendors
  • You may have the best technology / team / organization / investors, but at the end of the day, you are asking for a big favor to get their precious time and feedback
  • If you don't do your homework and target the proper end user / buyer, and understand their immediate and near future needs, you may end up causing a negative impression, which is obviously much harder to rectify as you push forward with product launches

So, how do you increase the "signal to noise" ratio of your market research efforts?

  • Friends & Family: what relationships can you leverage within your own organization (i.e. management team, advisors, partners, board members, consultants) to get some traction with end users, and even 'pilot' your pitch with friendly contacts
  • Leverage the expertise and client breadth of SIs: you can leverage a SIs expertise and client base in their target markets; essentially getting a portfolio view of business requirements. Plus, there may be interest in understanding how your solution / product may add value to their service offerings
  • Build Relationships with select End Users, so that you can get referrals: use the viral approach to build out relationships with key end users, and earn their trust so that you can access and leverage their network of relationships with peers, who can serve as contacts as well

It goes without saying that a little market research on the target accounts themselves (market focus, product lines, partners, competitors, and recent key events that affect their performance: quarterly earnings, client wins / losses, regulatory / political events, etc) position you much better, once you get engaged in a dialogue.

Give yourself enough time to gather data: which means you probably can't get a thorough campaign done in a couple of weeks; it will take 2+ months to get in touch with enough contacts to incorporate significant feedback into your customer and 'go to market' strategy.

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