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Market Research for Startups: Asking the Right Questions

Market Research Across the Startup Lifecycle

I recently taught a class at Boston-based startup, on Market Research for Startups to help early stage ventures learn the ropes of conducting market research in order to gain better market feedback on critical needs of an early-stage venture.

We talked about how the evolving role market research must play as your startup matures, and I shared a lifecycle approach for this line of thinking with a few examples in the diagram below.

market research lifecycle of a startup

A few of the areas we talked about that received the greatest interest included:

  • Target Market Prioritization: Understand which audiences to go after first once you’re ready to sell your product or service.  Just because you ‘re aware of a wide range of potential customers, that doesn’t mean you should go after all of them right away.  With limited resources, most startups have greater success when they segment their market and prioritize specific targets that help meets their current business goals in line with available resources.
  •  Pain Point Articulation: Learn what challenges your target audiences face as they relate to what your company offers.  By understanding their struggles and the words they use to describe their pain, you can better orient your messaging to how your product or services meets their needs, using language that resonates with them.
  • Marketing Planning: Gain insights into how your target user seeks out information and what informs their decision-making process.  Is your audience social media savvy? Do they go to industry conferences? The insights you learn will help determine the marketing channels to leverage.  In B2B environments, an important element of this is to understand all the different roles within an organization involved in evaluating a purchase decision and what information is needed to convince them of the need to purchase your solution.
  • Product Development: Collect input on the ‘must-have’ vs. ‘nice-to-have’ product features for the target audience you’ve prioritized to ensure the version you’re building will attract the customers you’re looking to acquire.  For tech-oriented products, understanding the minimally viable feature set will help ensure a capital-efficient business that scales alongside customer traction.

See below for the full list of priority uses for early-stage market research and to view the complete presentation.