7 Ways to Understand the Market and Customer Without A Budget

To scope better understanding your market potential and to successfully reach customers, firstly we look at a framework of market and customers questions that business leaders, product management and marketing communication professionals need to answer.  Secondly we look at sources of data that don’t require a budget to enable you to start answering these strategic marketing questions.

7 Ways to Understand the Market and Customer without a Budget

Part 1 – Structuring Market Research

Questions to answer:

  • Understand customers needs
  • Keep abreast of market changes
  • How your offer compares to alternative already available

Qualitative and Quantitative

  • TRENDS BEAT DATA POINTS …. compare what you learn from a single point in time versus a trended line over months or years.

A 3 section framework for understanding market including customer persona, market analysis and competitive analysis

Market Trends Research Questions

What larger changes in the market that are causing customer to make different choices related to your offering?

  • New technologies
  • New influencers
  • Growth trends
  • Pricing changes

Market Size Research Questions

  • What’s the total available market in units and revenue for you and the competition in the target geography?

Market Segmentation Research Questions

  • Considering all the customers, can they be divided up into similar groups?
  • How can the market be divided up?
    • E.g. shoe market; women’s, men’s, sports shoes
    • E.g. pay-as-you-go, bill pay
    • E.g. internal HR/recruiters, recruitment agencies / platforms

Customer Persona Research Questions

What does the ecosystem of your customers look like?  What are the needs, pain points, responsibilities, key concerns, influencers and information sources of your customer persona.

  • Externally who are their existing partners and providers?
    • Channel partners
    • Fortune 500 vendors
    • The IT savvy daughter
    • Suppliers
  • Internally who holds sway?
    • Finance
    • IT
    • Sales
  • Responsibility
    • What does their job description look like?
    • What happens on a day to day basis, as well as, weekly/monthly/etc?
    • What are their key concerns?
  • What is the context into which your offering must fit?
  • What articles and email subscriptions do they read? Where do they source information?

Competitor Research Questions / Overview

  • What are each competitor’s company
    • internal strengths?
    • internal weaknesses?
    • external opportunities?
    • external threats?
  • How does this competitor’s offer compare to ours?
    • Where do we out perform other players?
    • For which niches might we have a better solution?
    • What’s included in their core offering?
    • For what do they charge separately?

Pricing Research Questions

Pricing feeds directly into market size.  Pricing per customer / solution * # of potential customers = Market Size

    • What are, or can you estimate, competitors;
      • ERP Average End User Price (ERP)
      • Channel Margin Needs
      • Average Selling Price (ASP) (out your/competitors door)
      • MLO Costs (material, labour, overheads)
      • Fixed Costs (hosting, operations teams such as IT, HR and Finance)
      • Gross Margin (ASP less MLO)

Part 2: Market Research Data Sources

(and a few cool tools)

Market Trends Sources

  • What larger changes in the market may cause customers to make different choices related to your offering?
    • Google AdWords
    • Google Trends
      • Sample question:  Are people more inclined to use the term; ‘resellers’ or ‘partners’?
    • Gapminder.org
      • Sample question: in which countries are people living longest?

Market Size & Segmentation Data Sources

  • What’s the total available market in units and revenue for you and the competition in the target geography?
    • All of the Tools /Sources From Market Trends
    • Facebook Insights, Twitter Ads,
    • 3rd Party Market Research Organizations
    • Gartner, Nielsen, McKinsey, IDC  and, and, and…
    • Press releases, webinars, tweets and, and, and …

Pricing Research Sources

  • What are your, and your competitions’ pricing structure?
    • Web search on channel partners sites
    • Search on catalog and broad-based eCommerce sites
    • Ask customers and partners about adjacent offering

Competitor Market Research Sources

  • What are your competitors strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
    • Read their marketing materials
    • Read product literature. Insider tip => user manuals are a wonderful source of limitation and other insights
    • Ask your channel partners
    • Subscribe to competitor AND adjacencies emails, etc

Customer Persona Data Sources Sources

  • What are the needs, pain points, responsibilities, key concerns, influencers and information sources for your customers and potential customers?
    • Ask your marketing, sales and support people
      • Read your support forums and reviews
    • Utilize In-product feedback forms
    • Review your website analytics (such as Google Analytics)
    • Do face to face usability testing
    • Use free surveys
    • Talk to customers:
      • form a product council
      • make a goal to survey (call)  1- 3 customers a week/month.

Further Market Research Sources

Select favourites (favorites) of market research articles / sources:

How To Get Market Research Done?

  1. Figure out the priority of your information needs;
    • Market Trends, Size, Segmentation, Share
    • Customer Ecosystem, Profile, Problems and Needs
    • Pricing & Competition
  2. Dedicate some time i.e. schedule it
    • When something comes between you and your market research, don’t delete it: move it.
  3. Warning: read, and ideally, go to the source of all data.

For more details and examples of free market research data sources see the slideshow.

Further Resources To Better Understand Your Market And Customers

 => Get Assistance Understanding Markets

About Jane Morgan

With 20+ years high-tech marketing & product development experience from Boston to Billund, Berlin to Bangalore, Jane has managed teams and tech products with millions of installs, and millions of revenue (annually). She's researched and developed market strategy for global markets, and established the blueprint for product management in many new teams. As an intrapreneur turned entrepreneur, she changed vowels in 2014 and founded JEM 9 Marketing Consultancy. Today she works with CEOs & business leaders to assist them in understanding and reaching customers. Speaker on market research, technology marketing and product management.