Have you ever come up with a seemingly original product idea, only to find that a few other people have already created something similar?
Most business owners have had this experience, some on several occasions. A truly unique, never-been-done-before idea is pretty hard to come by.
But just because other companies offer similar products doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it. Instead, you can expect to be in a competitive market like most industries.
The competition for your product idea can vary. If you have a commodity product, you might find that you have more competition as opposed to a specialized product in a less crowded market space.
When you face this competition, it’s important to think about your brand positioning.
Visual branding, marketing messaging, brand culture, and internal communication all go into positioning your product as the top choice for people in your audience. And you’ll build your like-know-trust factor through consistent and relevant positioning.
Positioning can make or break your business. Take Warby Parker, for example.
They battle Luxottica, an eyeglass manufacturer with a monopoly-like presence in their industry. Unlike Luxottica’s B2B model, Warby Parker sells directly to consumers for a fraction of the cost. They also allow people to try on eyeglass frames from the comfort of their home and created a buy-one-give-one model.
No matter how fierce the competition is, you always have the opportunity to disrupt the market with your product and business model. But before you take a page from Warby Parker’s book, it’s important to assess your product’s market size and the number of competitors in your industry. Only then can you create a market research plan that will help you craft a comprehensive sales strategy.
How to increase sales with some competitive market research
How many times have you created marketing content based on what you think is true rather than what you know is true?
We’ve all done it! It can be easy to bypass market research for the sake of getting our product out into the world, but we can’t miss this crucial step.
Without market research, we are just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping that something sticks. Sure, something may stick at some point, but we can be more confident when we take the time to research our market.
Our sales strategy starts with market research. Understanding our target audience, their pain points, and what our competitors’ offer will help us determine what our foolproof competitive advantage is.
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As you read through this Tradecraft issue, you are probably sensing a theme. We’ve been talking a lot about how your marketing and sales strategy has more to do with your audience than you. This is because they are the ones who will buy your product.
While it might be tempting to say your ideal customer is anyone who is willing to pay, it’s best to create targeted marketing toward a specific audience. When you have an ideal person in mind, it becomes easier to write marketing content and make the sale.
The first step is to think about your target audience’s demographics. This will give you a general picture of who you are trying to attract. Here’s a quick list to help you get started.
- Age range
- Education level
- Income level
- Life stage
- Business stage
Once you have created your target audience demographics, you can move on to understanding their psychographics. Too many businesses stop at the demographics stage because they feel like they have at least a good idea of what their audience looks like.
The problem with this is that the information we determined above doesn’t tell us much about the purchasing motivations and habits of our target audience. If we miss out on this important aspect, our marketing won’t be as strong as it could be.
Instead, let’s take a moment to answer some of these questions as it relates to your buyer persona.
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- What are their hobbies and interests?
- What does their ideal day look like?
- What qualities are they known for?
- How would a friend or family member describe them?
- What drives them when they make a purchasing decision?
- What irks them, and what energizes them?
- Where do they go for news and information?
- What titles do they associate themselves with?
- How would they describe their lifestyle?
- What holds them back, and what pushes them forward?
After you answer these questions, you will have a better understanding of who your ideal customer truly is.
Pro tip: If you’ve already been in business for a while or have been working on side hustle, you can also keep past clients, readers, or customers in mind when you go through this activity.
Pick the best people you’ve collaborated or worked with in order to fully answer these questions. It’s another great way to make your market research feel more real.
You can also create more than one buyer persona depending on how many subsets you have inside your target audience. We usually recommend doing two to three buyer personas max so you aren’t tempted to attract everyone.
Your business is only as useful as the solution you provide your target audience with. In order to gain market share, you must fully understand your audience’s struggles and pain points. Some of your audience’s pain points may seem obvious, but others may take a bit of digging.
Knowing your audience’s pain points comes in handy when you start to write conversion-based copy. Before you can offer a solution, you need to highlight what their pain point is.
If you are creating a vegan cookbook for stay-at-home moms, their pain points might be:
- They don’t have enough time to go to the grocery store
- They don’t always have the extra income to buy multiple healthy ingredients per meal
- They don’t have the energy to cook after caring for their kids all day
Based on this market research, you could dig even deeper to see what Millennial moms struggle with as opposed to the generation before them. You could even look at moms who had newborns in their early twenties versus their early thirties.
All of this is to show that you can always uncover more layers that go into your audience’s pain points.
If you are struggling with this stage, we suggest casually interviewing some of your friends or people you may know who fit your buyer persona to get more information. It can be a great way to hear what their pain points are rather than guessing at what they could be. No one knows their situation and buying habits better than they do!
As you determine their pain points, you can look at what stage in the buying process they are in and what struggles they have in each stage.
If you want more information and anecdotes to back up your market research, you can also send surveys to past customers or followers to gain their feedback. Remember that people who match your ideal buyer persona will have better feedback than those who don’t.
You can also create a focus group if you want to take this activity a step further. Then you can see how people interact with your product and react to your messaging or positioning. You can choose a small group of about five to nine people so everyone has a chance to be heard. The feedback will be invaluable!
We consider researching your target audience and their pain points the primary goal of your market research. Your secondary goal is to research your competitors. This is so you can understand the current product options your ideal customer base already has.
If you skip this crucial step, you may end up creating a product or service that your ideal buyers don’t need or already have. In many cases, there is room for improvement with products that are on the market.
One way to start researching your competitors is to try their products yourself. Note what your experience was like from purchasing their product to getting it in your hands. If it is a service, note how you were treated and the overall experience you left with.
Trying their products will also give you an idea of what is missing and how you can position your product to satisfy the “what’s missing” element.
You can even read consumer reviews online to see what people think. You can look at YouTube product comparison videos, Consumer Reports, or look on social media to see how people are talking about your competitor’s products. These testimonials will give you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.
After this market research, you’ll be able to see how you can fill in the gaps.
What do you offer that other companies are lacking in?
How can you improve what they are doing?
Do you have a better product, a better experience, a better all-around brand, or something else entirely?
This is the stage where all of your competitive market research will come together. Once you know what your differentiators are, you can solidify your positioning within your niche, which will help you write better emails and sell more effectively.
How will you increase sales from your market research?
By doing your market research, you’ll be building your trust and credibility with your target audience as you find ways to optimize your product, brand experience, and process.
Knowing who your audience is, their pain points, and your competitors will help you communicate clearly and effectively, giving you that coveted competitive advantage in your marketplace.
So before you start selling your product or service (or even if this is your second or third offering), make sure to do all your market research. You never know what new things you'll learn about your audience or competitors that will help you make the next sale.