Market study: an SME prepares its export plan

Research
François Royer Mireault
highlow - Stratégie marketing & développement de Startupshighlow - Stratégie marketing & développement de Startupshighlow - Stratégie marketing & développement de Startups
May 5, 2021

In this article, we illustrate our thoughts and recommendations through a fictional case study about a client that markets portable BBQs. It’s inspired by summer—which is just around the corner!

The client recently started to market a portable BBQ in Quebec. After a successful first year in business, she learned that she might be eligible for financing to broaden her product line and market her products in the rest of Canada.

Our client is hesitant—will the product resonate in the new market? Does it have the right positioning? Does the organization have the capability to market the product and develop a successful go-to-market strategy?

Her investors have asked her to conduct a market study to confirm the opportunity. She’s not convinced that it would be a good use of her time and money. She would rather adopt a test and learn approach.

4 key factors to get the most out of a market study

A market study, if done right, will prevent wasting time and money on unproductive experiences. It’s a project accelerator—it feeds strategic decisions and complements intuition.

1. ASSESS THE FULL ECOSYSTEM

A good market study should identify market dynamics, not just consumer behaviours and expectations. It should take into perspective all the stakeholders in the ecosystem such as suppliers, distributors, policy makers, and other partners. Collecting employees’ perspectives is also valuable as they’re the ones who will activate the plan and recommendations resulting from the market study.

In the case of our portable BBQ entrepreneur, we would interview partners across the entire production and marketing value chain such as parts suppliers, distributors (both independent and national brands), and key employees.

We would gather their perspectives on the following elements:

  • Trends in barbecuing and portable cooking tools
  • Opportunities and threats in the market
  • Competitors and their competitive advantage versus that of our client
  • Communication channels and the main messages in circulation
  • Potential market headwinds and tailwinds

2. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE VALUE OF COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

It’s one of the most time-consuming parts of a market study, but it sheds the most light on the conditions required to perform successfully in a given market. One is rarely the first player to answer a job to be done for a consumer. There’s always someone out there providing an alternative. We must understand the differences between each alternative and why a consumer chooses one over the other. A rich, competitive understanding will guide most marketing decisions.

A competitive analysis will enable our client to:

Identify what the prerequisites on the market are (i.e., what consumers expect from a portable BBQ):

  • If all competitors (Weber, Camp Chef, Zip, Porta-Chef) offer a 100-day guarantee, a protective case, BBQ cooking tools, etc., it’s an unnecessary risk not to offer those things.

Identify avenues of positioning and differentiation:

  • The other BBQs are built with new materials. Could we position the product as an eco-friendly solution by using recycled materials?

Identify communication angles and opportunities versus other players:

  • No brand has a credible spokesperson or endorser; this may be an opportunity.
  • They seem to have limited direct-to-consumer reach. Do we want to explore that avenue?
  • Are they good at promoting the BBQ lifestyle and the moments it allows families and friends to spend together? Could we do better? How?

3. LISTEN TO CONSUMERS IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY

A good market study assesses consumers via multiple sources (not just through a survey). We must observe clients while shopping and ask them questions on why they’ve chosen one option versus another. We must read consumer reviews online and follow social media pages/accounts where people talk to each other. A good market study includes consumer voices in all possible forms.

Check out the following four reviews of a similar product on Amazon. See how product attributes (size, weight, power, durability) translate into value in their eyes:

  • This BBQ is light and powerful enough to cook burgers in parks. It does the job!
  • My mother always told me, “Don’t scrimp on shoes and winter coats.” To that I would add grills.
  • Steaks, burgers, lamb chops, everything comes out GREAT! We were the envy of the RV park!
  • I threw away my large BBQ and replaced it with 3 of these. Now I can cook meat, chicken, and bread at different temps.

It allows us to learn the way they speak and understand the nuances in their needs and expectations.

Customer reviews are a gold mine of inspiration to better communicate the benefits of your product and position it in contexts that resonate more.

4. MAKE THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT

A new product lives within an organization and should contribute to leveraging its capabilities while delivering the growth it seeks. Therefore, insights from market studies should be put into perspective with the reality of the business, its objectives, its stakeholders’ perceptions and expectations, its capability to execute, etc.

The “so what” of the market study—the market strategy and recommendations—must be in alignment with the reality of the business. This may sound obvious, but market studies usually don’t make the link between an organization’s external and the internal realities.

Our client has excellent digital capabilities and communication skills. However, her distribution network and contacts are limited, and she doesn’t have a sales team. The recommendations from the market studies should take this into account. It may focus on a direct-to-consumer online distribution in the other market, as well as a strong online and social media presence.

IN CONCLUSION

When executed well, a market research study contributes to accelerating a project by enabling smart decisions and efficient actions. You nail a market study and are in a position to leverage it if you:

  • Take the entire ecosystem into account
  • Invest time in the competitive analysis
  • Assess consumers from all possible angles
  • Put market insights into perspective with your internal capabilities


WORK WITH US

This article was written by Émilie Gauthier from Tangible and François Royer Mireault from highlow. We collaborate on two services: Market Insights and Innovation Sprint. Work directly with two strategists with complementary expertise. Let’s talk!

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