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The Problem with Market Research

horse powerThere’s a quote attributed to Henry Ford: "If I would have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse."

Great quote. Just one problem:



From all our research, it doesn’t appear that Henry Ford ever said it. It’s a legend.

But that won’t stop us from using it!

This quote highlights a common misperception among entrepreneurs – that great products or services are developed independent of your customers.

Whether you’re a startup or an existing business looking to expand, it pays to talk with your customers – or your future customers. However, it’s a mistake to think that your customers will have all the answers.

The problem with market research is often the market researcher!

And this quote by Henry Ford is the perfect example.

A horse of a different color
It implies asking the wrong question. The right question is a horse of a different color. It’s good to ask your customers what they want. It’s more important to find out why they want it.

What’s the underlying problem they need to solve? What’s the benefit to solving it?

Be prepared to ask why as many times as it takes to get to the problem, not a symptom. It may take five or more why’s to get to this point.

Horse sense
Your customers don’t have your perspective. Your customers don’t know your business – and your industry – like you do. So you have to use your horse sense.

Think about the extended environment as well as the issue at hand. What new innovations are likely that will affect your customers? Are there regulatory changes that will make an impact?

Sometimes you have to override your customers stated wishes to see that there’s a bigger issue at hand. This is especially true if you’re going to bring something really innovative to market. 

Horse power
Communicate with your customers in terms that they understand. Do you suppose it’s just an accident that engines were measured in terms of horse power?

It helped customers relate to something they knew.

Isn’t it interesting that, for most of us, it doesn’t have the same rich meaning today as it did when the automobile was invented? Yet, it’s still the system that’s used.

You can lead a horse to water …
… but you can’t make him drink. With all the market research you may do, there’s something really important to remember – it’s all hypothetical! It’s play money!

You won’t really know if you’re on to something until you ask them to spend real dollars. So try to find ways to test inexpensively. Make sure customers truly are willing to vote with their dollars!

In Richard III, William Shakespeare said:

“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

Don’t give up your kingdom for just any horse. Look for the vehicle that will take you to BIGG success! You may find out it’s not a horse at all!

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(Image in today's post by holyspirit)