I was hanging out after a conference not too long ago, chatting up new brand builders when something crazy happened. Three of the four entrepreneurs I was talking to hadn't conducted any market research, and the fourth was proud to announce their hours spent Google searching potential competitors. The need for knowledge, like this, shows up in the most unlikely places sometimes, one of those is my sister-in-law, Laura Hazzard, a market research pro who works with very big brands like Target and Starbucks, and advises smaller ones for me as well.

She and I have talked extensively about the biggest mistakes we've seen in research, especially with people just like yourself who are ready to launch their product(s). Whether it's your first product, or tenth, we want to make sure you are avoiding rookie mistakes this late in your process. Without further adieu, the seven major mistakes to avoid when it comes to market research.

  1. Getting sloppy and skipping research. I know you're busy, and you don't have a lot of money to spare, and you're ready to get to market. Your brain is running the same narrative day and night, "I just got to get this to market." This is the point in your process where you have to learn to pause, and think logically about next steps. If you get the wrong product to market, the timing won't matter so much, will it? You can find out so much and save yourself so much money by slowing down, and just doing some research. You've got to know what your consumers are going to think, say, and feel about your product. Do not skip this step.
  2. Trying to do everything themselves. Don't do this. When you are so close to the process, you will have massive blind spots. This is your baby, you are attached to it, and those feelings alone will interfere with your ability to conduct unbiased market research. Reach out to someone you know, or someone like Laura who works in marketing or advertising. Get fresh eyes on it that aren't your own. If you want good real honest data, which you do, ask for help and input.
  3. Asking the wrong questions. You can ask, "What do you like? What do you dislike?"  Great questions, but what's missing? You're not talking about the why and the emotion. You need the full picture. What are you feeling? What are you thinking? A lot of people get lost in their  product research and start forgetting it's context. Do you know your consumers? What do they care about? All of that goes into this product and how it will fit into their life. If you ask the wrong questions, your research will be a waste.
  4. Skipping over competitive analysis. You cannot afford to skip this critical piece of your market research puzzle. Identifying your competitors and evaluating their strategies, to determine their strengths and weaknesses, relative to those of your own product or service has to be included. Don't think it's enough to just identify your competition. Don't get me wrong, competition is good, but figuring out what makes them competition, is damn-near priceless.
  5. Not talking to enough people. For quantitative analysis, you should have feedback from 500 people, at least, and it should be representative of all ages, genders, and regions. Anyone that's relevant that may buy your product, not only do you need to talk to them, you need to talk to a lot of them otherwise, it's considered qualitative. So, let's talk about 'qual.' It is recommended to talk to at least 25 to 30 people, either in a group, chat, or phone setting. You need different opinions and values. You need well-rounded opinions, so that you are fully confident and sure of what to do next.
  6. Not tracking data. Track, track, track. You have to keep doing research because the market changes, celebrities change, influencers change, colors change. All of these things will change how people interact with your product, how they feel about it, and most certainly what they're buying. This is why you need to track and then follow-up. Continue doing research. Don't stop now. Track at minimum yearly, but ideally, quarterly.
  7. Fear of the follow up. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Sometimes I see people doing a bunch of research and then never following up. Don't let fear impede your potential. Many times people are nervous and their anxiety gets the best of them. "What are they going to say?" Don't just wait to see if people re-buy.  Get ahead of the game. Send the follow-up email. Ask the right questions to get the right feedback. People will be honest and love to tell you what they think. You need to know. Don't let fear keep you from the follow-up.

Be Rookie of the Year

There is no way around this. You need to do research, and it needs to be well-rounded and unbiased. Asking the right questions to the right people, and to enough people, this will really help set a path forward. And not just for product development and usability, but also for distribution, advertising, marketing, building a brand, and ultimately selling more products and making more money.

Published on: Jun 29, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.