Market research at every stage of company building is imperative for strategic growth — not just doing it, but mastering it is critical to your journey, career and company success. From the solo entrepreneur with an idea to the Fortune 100 product manager looking to enter a new market, the upfront indoctrination and education one exhausts for themself makes all the difference.
Prepare For Tomorrow
Yet, what’s often missed beyond the heavy lift up front is that the best strategists in the world don’t simply cram for the exam at the outset, they draw market maps, define parameters, processes and workflows, discover tools and tech platforms, continuously track, track, track, follow, study, immerse, every single high-level trend and subtle market move, they drive end to end strategies, and are always thinking about what’s next. No one is sitting still and you can’t be either. They are the most prepared person in the room. And not just the room yesterday or right now, but tomorrow.
The “Market In” Approach
Paramount to any successful entrepreneur or executive is breadth AND depth of understanding “market in” the landscape around them. We say “market in” because so many new companies or new product lines are driven by brilliant technologists or industry savants who have an idea, talk to a few lighthouse customers, and run with it. This is necessary too when it comes to company building, but that is a “product out” view that oftentimes overly ignores the broader playing field that’ll certainly influence future prospects. “Market in” is so important because you need to understand the competitive landscape and even the comparative landscape, the companies you don’t compete with but can learn from and/or aspire to be like. Only when you know your market like the back of your hand, can you truly define your vision, strategy and execution plans and deeply understand your differentiators to create that much sought after moat. Moats and the castles behind them need to be defended for years and decades – every single day. You need to be anchored in a strong foundation and iterate, adapt, evolve. Or you will die.
To know how and where to innovate and differentiate on either the business side or the technology side, you must rely on market research data and know your market cold. How could you possibly drive strategy and stand out if you don’t understand your space and all the players? How can you decide when to zig when others zag if you aren’t always keeping tabs on the established players and new entrants / ankle biters? How can you drive product roadmap, brand campaigns, demand gen programs or strategic partnerships without knowing your market better than anyone else?
Learning Never Stops
One thing I look for in backing any founder and leadership team is their obsession for learning, focused on the “why XXX startup” question everyday, yearning to be the best, being an encyclopedia of their space, having a big vision with a sequenced and milestone rich execution path to get there. You can only do that if you take a “market in” approach.
How can you build the best company you can without being the most prepared at all times? You can’t.