Using Competition for Market Research
When you come up with a new idea, often you can fine-tune your product concept by doing market research with competitive products. You can find out if your new idea address a need that is important to people, and also what potential customers look for in products that they buy to meet that need, and what type of pricing people will pay for your type of product.
What is Competition? Inventor often tell me that there is not other product on the market like theirs. Which may be true. But look at competition instead as any product that satisfies the same need. For example, if you have a new flexible product to cover items in the microwave, the competition is any other product that prevents food from splattering. Competition would include using nothing at all, using a napkin, using a silicon cover, or putting food in a microwavable container.
Are You Solving an Important Customer Need? Invention success happens when you solve an important customer need with an innovative product. Most inventions fail, no matter how innovative they are, when they don’t address a key customer need. You can tell how important the need is by asking people to look at how they are currently addressing the need your idea targets. In the example of the new flexible product for covering food in the microwave you can simply show the competitive products and ask which product, if any they have used, and are using now. If people have tried several products, or are using an expensive solution, you have a strong indication that your product is addressing an important need.
Are People Happy with the Current Products? Unhappy users of competitive products are people looking for a new solution. When you ask people what they like, or dislike about each product, you can see if people have more dislikes than likes. When they do, that is a very good sign. But follow up that question with how they would like to see the product improved. You want 40 to 50 percent of the people you survey to have comments on how the product could be improved.
Learn how your Product can be Improved. You can learn a great deal about how to improve your product by hearing what people like and don’t like about competitive products. Inventors tend have one view of how to design their product. But when potential users tell you their likes and dislikes about a product often important consumer features they did not think of will emerge. You might learn what features to add, and also what features you might want to delete.
Uncover what Price Consumers Might Pay. When you show a range of competitive products you will see what percent of people do nothing to solve the problem, and for those who do try to solve the problem what type of prices they are paying/ You don’t need to have every consumer want to pay a high price, but you do want to see that at least 20 or 25% of the potential customers willing to pay the price you expect to charge of more.
How Many People to Interview. Typically, seven to 10 potential users will be enough to give you a good idea of how your product will be received. You need to have at least 10 to 15 5 of the market want your product to have a chance to succeed. So, if you don’t see that solving the problem is important and that the people are unhappy with current products in 10 potential users, you probably don’t have a strong chance of success.
Who to Interview? Since you are showing competitive products, and not your own product you can use family friends, co-workers and other acquaintances are acceptable. You just need to be careful to ask open-ended questions, without steering the person you are interviewing, and be sure to listen to the responses without judgement.