Research….when the word is mentioned to inventors or entrepreneurs they roll their eyes, cringe or get a blank look on
their face. I get it, some see it as a daunting task that they really don’t know where to start and rarely does it have any
immediate pay off (i.e. there is no motivation to do it!) However, shying away from doing that research is at the heart of
why many entrepreneurs fail early on. Whether it’s lack of understanding of the market, poor product development,
poor location, poor planning or even cash flow problems, many of these can be solved or even prevented with good
If research is a big part of an entrepreneur’s failure, then doing the research should prevent them from failing, right?
Unfortunately it’s more a matter of knowing how to do the research correctly than actually doing the research. Many
inventors and entrepreneurs simply don’t know how to do research or know what to look for in that research. I sat
down with Lisa Heisey, a market research specialist, and asked her to explain what are the key elements of research and
some ideas on how to do it effectively.
Why Research is critical
Inventors and start-up entrepreneurs often become too focused on the details of developing their new product or
service. Market research is the important piece that helps them step back and see the big picture of how their product
might fit into the marketplace. Through market research, entrepreneurs gain valuable information about industry
trends, who their competitors really are, and which consumers they should target and how. Start-up entrepreneurs
benefit from market research in developing, fine-tuning and enhancing their particular product or service, which
ultimately leads to greater revenue through new customers.
Doing effective market research
In order to do good research, an entrepreneur needs to start by getting up to date on their industry and learning the
best, most reliable sites and contacts within that industry. Business statistics, industry expert blogs, trade magazines,
and consumer sites are all important in the search for quality background information and leads. Entrepreneurs need to
be organized and methodical when conducting the market research, which should include up-to- date information
including quantitative (numbers, statistics) and qualitative (feedback, anecdotes, personal stories). It is important that
they document their findings and be able to cite where they found them.
They can gather some of this information by using a combination of secondary and primary types of research. Examples
of secondary research are internet searches and reviews of online sites such as amazon and other online sellers for
similar or competing products, while primary research might consist of consumer surveys, or first-hand interviews with
experts in the field.
Solid research leads to success
Market research should help entrepreneurs identify specific market trends which may affect their new business or
product. It should also identify existing and potential competitors, potential customers, how their idea can be
differentiated from existing products, pricing trends and other useful information that will allow them to improve on
their product or service while it’s still in the pre-launch or development phase. All of which leads to a more successful
endeavor, even if it means scrapping the idea.
*This piece originally appeared in the Bellingham Herald.