Getting from the obscure to the concrete through market research

As a new product development manager, I am often tasked with leading a team to develop a new product or service to address a problem and capture a market. It may be quite challenging to “see” one or more solutions at the onset. So how do I get from the obscure to the concrete?

Conducting market research

The best way to get going is to look out in the market for what has been done in the general area of the product vision. For example, if the vision is “we want to transport people to Mars”, you should begin by evaluating the different methods that have been used to get people into space and the conditions which has made it impossible so far to get people to Mars.

Narrow the market

What I find necessary early on is to push Executives to define the target market. Focusing on a target market makes it easier to narrow down the solution choices. For example, “we want to offer real-time online cooking classes”. In this example, it would help to define the persona (characteristics) of those who would be interested in such a concept and the “sweet spot” for a solution in the market. If the market is narrowed down to beginner cooks who have very limited online tech savvy, you can see how a solution suddenly takes shape. The development team can focus on course content for beginners and ensure the online user experience is simplified for non-techies.

However, Execs do not always agree to narrow down the market for fear of missing out on “unknown” captive audiences. If we look at our cooking class example above, it may be necessary to develop various personas and evaluate each in terms of market size, then build a business case to determine which ones are most attractive. Eventually, you will need to segment the market and become very familiar with your personas in order to develop the most attractive solution for your market.


Good tools to get started with market research include a SWOT Analysis and/or a Porter Five Forces Analysis. These tools ensure you look at all aspect of the market, including the competition and your own internal capacities.

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