How Market Research Works

Getting Ready to Ask Questions

In this article, the author asks three very important questions about your potential product:

  1. Who, if anyone, has a real need for the thing I propose to sell, and how many of those potential customers are there?
  2. How much, if anything, are they spending to address that need today [and/or how much would they be willing to spend]?
  3. Does my product meet that need in a manner that either saves or makes them substantial amounts of money?

These questions have a business focus, but they can be generalized to handle any product. For example, in question 1, no one had a "real need" for pet rocks or singing fish, yet these products sold very well. So we might expand the question to include "desires" and "whims" as well as needs.

Similarly, in question 3, people often buy things for reasons that have nothing to do with making or saving money. For example, Egyptian cotton sheets neither make or save money, but they feel good when you are falling asleep. So we can expand question #3 to say, "Does the product appeal to a customer in a way that would cause him or her to pull out the wallet?" The word "appeal" can be very broad -- everything from breast implants to chrome wheels to food processors can fall into that category.

Now that you have these three "big picture" questions in mind, you can start to think about the specific questions that you would like to ask your specific audience. Normally you come up with a set of questions that help you to understand how the audience is thinking and feeling about your product.

The goal of all of these questions is to gain intimate knowledge of your customers. You want to know exactly what they are thinking and feeling, and why.