Anyone who has spent any time in a supermarket knows that there is an abundance of choices for essentially every product category. Granted, we all have specific needs — some of us might need to manage an especially tight budget; others might have dietary restrictions, and the rest of us might have strong objections to the color blue. But how can you know which are the qualities that your potential market values? You’ll have to conduct market research, my friend.
Customers have an irritating habit of being incredibly disloyal. Just because your brand of frozen yogurt seemed to have been the answer to all of their hopes and dreams six months ago, suddenly a competitor’s yogurt was featured on one of the Real Housewives’ lifestyle blogs and now your brand revenue has suffered considerably. What happened? How did the romance die so suddenly, without so much as a phone call or a bouquet of flowers?
Could it have been that your frozen yogurt was the brief beneficiary of a mere trend? Trends can work both for and against you. While being in the midst of a trend can be beneficial in the short term, once the allure of the trend dies, you can easily find yourself the butt of cruel Twitter jokes.
That’s just the way it works with people. One minute you’re in a happy relationship; the next you’re alone — bereft and longing for what once was. Well, stop your mourning. Get back on your horse and learn from your mistakes. Oh, yes — mistakes were made. Did you do your market research? Well, then.
You might have done a bit of market research, in the form of asking your friends, family and associates what they think of your product. But are they really your market? Are they honestly willing to pay money for your frozen yogurt, or are they merely impressed that you’ve harnessed all of your entrepreneurial spirit and developed a product all on your own? Our mothers may be proud of us, but unless our mothers are also Oprah, they’re approval won’t yield a solid return.
Conduct extensive market research. Even if your venture is small, you can still get valuable feedback. Gauge the impression your product leaves on the public and analyze it honestly. There are numerous tools for consumer research; you can set up — or participate in — a local event where you can showcase your product. Look up the schedule for local industry expos and keep abreast of trade organization meet-ups. Prepare mock-ups or sample sizes of your product, and give them away in exchange for filling out online surveys and questionnaires.
If you have a bit more revenue to spend on testing and development, you can employ the services of a focus group. Focus groups are great for hearing groups of people engage with each other about their desires, needs, purchasing habits and histories. If you have a skilled moderator, you can gather a huge amount of useful information. Remember, although focus groups can be governed by a few dominating personalities, you can nevertheless assess whether or not group consensus ends in your favor. As you well know, customers can be dominated by groupthink. If your focus groups are being dominated by vocal proponents of your product, then that could mean your product and/or marketing could be doing something right.
Packaging design consumer groups are a branch of product market research, since the packaging acts as a value-added extension of the product itself. If your consumer research group loves the product but isn’t thrilled about the packaging, that’s essentially the same as being lukewarm about the product itself. Don’t let yourself become too attached with the innovativeness or the beauty of the packaging you’ve selected; swallow your pride and give the customers what they want.
It might be slightly depressing, but in the end, as much as you want to carve out your own entirely unique niche within your market, you can only be as unique as your customers allow you to be. Revenue is everything, and it is customers — not necessarily your dedication to your original idea — that will start it rolling in.