Doing Market Research, Ask The Right Questions — The Startup Sales Guy

How do you find out if the product you are planning to build is what your potential customers want? You need to do some market research. But the questions you ask will make the difference between success and failure. Two quotes from two very successful entrepreneurs come to mind.

The first is from Henry Ford who said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. And Steve Jobs famously said, “A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. Both men were enormously successful at bringing an entirely new product to market.

Ask the right questions

If Steve Jobs had asked people what they wanted when he was designing the iPhone, we would probably not have the smart phone you are reading this post on. When you are trying to build something new and revolutionary it is essential that you ask the right questions. People can’t know if they will want something that doesn’t yet exist.

Generic questions like “How often would you use an app like…” or “What would you think of an app that did…” can point you in the wrong direction. If you ask people how often they would use a product you will get one answer. But if you ask those same people when was the last time you used this product, you will likely get a much different answer.

Use The Mom Test, from the book of the same name by Rob Fitzpatrick. Rob’s premise is that most people are lying to you all the time. And you mom is the person who lies to you the most because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings.

The trick is to ask questions even your mom can’t lie about

When you are doing market research for a new product, you want to learn about your potential customers, not the product you plan to build. You want to gather facts not opinions. Opinions are not facts, even though they are often presented as being so. Asking hypothetical questions can be just as bad at getting to what you are looking for.

The purpose of market research is to learn if there is a market for the product you plan to build. The best way to learn that is to look at your potential customers’ past experiences and actions.

  • What are the customer needs, what is the pain to be solved?
  • Are there products on the market that meet those needs?
  • What are those products missing?
  • What new features would be of interest to those customers?
  • How often would those customers use this product?
  • Does your product meet the need?
  • What challenges do existing products face and what needs are not being met?
  • How often are existing products being used?

Is there a market for this product

Now that you’ve done the market research to define your MVP (minimum viable product)t, you need to determine if there is a market for it. You will want to understand why you built it. Does it fill the need you discovered in the above set of questions? Are there other products on the market that also fill the void? What does your product do that the competitors don’t or what does it do better? Next you need to define who you built it for and decide if that market segment is large enough to support the product. What are the demographics of your target market? Where are they located? Do they have the budget to purchase your product?

Doing good market research before you build your product can go a long way toward having a product that your potential customers will find value in and buy. Curiosity is the key to creating products that will resonate with your target market and become viable and profitable. What kind of research are you doing?

Originally published at on May 27, 2021.




I help new companies build and manage a sales organization that will deliver results.

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Michael Dalfonzo

Michael Dalfonzo

I help new companies build and manage a sales organization that will deliver results.

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