Monday, July 30, 2007

Satisfaction: Diving into a Market Research Project

As a marketer, there are few things that are as satisfying to me as learning about a new industry.

Okay, I can't give away the industry I'm poking around in, but I've been completely immersed recently in helping a client figure out what needs to be on their product roadmap, and how they should get there: build or buy.

I went into this one completely cold. Usually, when I'm doing a research project, I know a little something about the product, or the industry, or the users, or the players.

Not this time out.

Nada. Zilch. Zippo. My experience with this industry was nil. My awareness of any aspect other than its existence was nil. And my impression - if I thought about it for a moment - was at least marginally distasteful. Basically, I didn't know jack.

Much of the "background info" the client had provided me with - and there wasn't all that much - went right over my head. He was throwing out names, concepts, and acronyms that I'd never heard of. A few times I asked him to spell something, or what it stood for, but once I realized how little confidence my questions were inspiring in the client, I just shut up and took notes.

The client, of course, knew that I was a no nothing, but my price was "righter" than what an industry expert would charge.

On my first dive in, I was really flailing around and swallowing water. Cold water. Lots of it. How, I asked myself, will I ever sort through all this stuff and make enough sense of it to pronounce on trends and give some advice.

But after jumping in, I found my stroke and stopped sputtering. The water was fine.

In the last two weeks, I've read countless 10-K's and 10-Q's, web-sites, downloadable collateral, press releases, industry rags, industry association publications.

Two weeks later, I've become something of a minor-league expert. I know the trends and the players. I know who's doing what to whom. I know my way around. 

Thank God for the Internet! Thank God for Google! Thank God for SEC filings! This is so much fun!

I've just completed my preliminary report to the client.

He's not exactly gushing at what I've come up with. (He's not that kind of guy.)

But a couple of times I mentioned things I'd found that he didn't know.

  • He didn't know that X had just signed a deal with Y - a deal that had a ton of implications for his customers. (I found this one combing through a stack of press releases on the web site of someone in his industry, but not - yet - a direct competitor of his.)
  • He didn't know that Q, which had very high market share in an adjacent market, was coming into his. (I read about it in their 10-K.)
  • He didn't know that only x percent of his market had an ABC professional on staff, which opens up an new product avenue for him. (I saw it in an industry association fact book.)

Okay, he pushed back on or discounted a few things I told him. It's not like I'm some kind of Market Research savant, or true industry expert.

Still and all, he's happy. I'm happy.

And if you want to know anything about the [mystery] industry, just give me a holler.

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