Using Market Insights Effectively

This is a summary of the 2nd Product Management Twitter talk held today, 15 February 2011 (Sydney date). Here’s the full transcript.

Scott Sehlhorst of Tyner Blain was our second guest discussion leader talking on the topic of Market Insights. He was keen to continue the discussion thread started by Steve Haines last week.

We started off the discussion with a tough question from Scott. “When you’re developing insights about your markets – how do you predict what your markets will look like in the future?

My first thoughts.. Before you predict, best to understand your market today and its current attributes. This in itself is a tough job.

Here are some answers to Scott’s first question:

  • cindyfsolomon: I try to capture competitive space as a starter.
  • rcauvin: Of course we’ll want to get into getting beyond customer requests and look at what insights lie behind them.
  • sehlhorst: I start with a model of market as collection of segments. Grouping personas who share problems (and share how they view / value the problems) that’s my definition of the ‘market’. I’ve had good success using Kano analysis to group how people think about individual problems
  • davidwlocke: The market moves in predictable ways depending on where you begin. This independent of competition.
  • nickcoster: While markets change quickly, people don’t. We are all trying to do pretty much the same things that we always have. Looking to the future is looking to see how markets are failing to solve customers’ current problems effectively.
  • Brainmates: Initially focus on the present and then look into the future. If you don’t solve today’s problems, you can’t begin to solve future problems.
  • cascade_alan: By innovating we can shape the future of the market.
  • mikeboudreaux: Need to consider economic, social, technological trends in the market. Future trends are important for segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Need to consider technology adoption and buying trends if you are targeting emerging markets.

An interesting point raised by Roger Cauvin during the discussion:

“Solutions to current problems often create the problems of the future. For example, the invention of cars created all sorts of problems & product opportunities.”

We agreed with Roger’s point but it’s still important to solve today’s problems today. Whilst predicting and including market trends is important in our overall analysis and product solution, its necessary to firstly identify problems consumers face today.

Scott added:

“We should make it hard for our competitors to satisfy our customers.”

Mike Boudreaux aptly added:

“We need a convergence of research into technology adoption/buying trends & solving today’s problems.”

Cindy posed the question: “Does positioning actually change the market, or the perception of the product in it?

Here are some of the answers to her question:

  • mikeboudreaux: Mature markets vs. emerging markets can impact the positioning of your product – high value vs. low cost.
  • davidwlocke: Positioning filters messages, messages filter prospects/customers/market.
  • rcauvin: Product that uniquely embodies compelling positioning redefines the market.
  • Brainmates: It does both. Positioning can change the perception of product but it can also change the market.

Scott’s second question: “How far into the future do you try and anticipate markets – and why that length of time?

  • barrypaquet: Building on mkt, industry, tech trends, I look 4 the disrupter (technology, business model, etc).
  • mikeboudreaux: Consider the expected duration of product lifecycle phases – Introduction, growth, maturity, decline. Need to consider the evolving demands. The world is changing at an accelerating rate. Today’s products are old. Another sure sign of maturity – you start extending to other markets to grow.
  • nickcoster: Market anticipation depends on investment horizon. This should drive lower cost innovation now to guide progress for future. Guessing the market is like guessing the weather. Short term is easy. Long term accuracy is impossible but you can see trends.
  • rcauvin: Part of the agile philosophy is to get solutions out there so you can discover the problems they will create. Part of agile is to get solutions out so you can discover the problems they will create.
  • sehlhorst: Product Management has to be a balance of both prediction and discovery.
  • davidwlocke: No market when looking for validation does not mean ‘do not launch’. It requires a diff approach to adoption. Technology adoption lifecycle lays out the future. Products move at the speed of the adoption of the technology.

The third question: “How do you update your perspective on your markets?

  • sehlhorst: I use mind maps, sticky notes, visio diagrams, lots of notes (in evernote). Really pretty adhoc. Haven’t found good tool yet.
  • mikeboudreaux: Same here. I use MS OneNote because of integration with Office. I also read, read, read… looking for big events that change behavior and consider their long-term impact. For B-to-B, talk to customers about their long term vision and continue the discussion on a regular basis.
  • cindyfsolomon: I use mindjet – will export into word doc, pdf or website for proj mgmt & wireframing.
  • barrypaquet: Iterate: assumptions =>create/refine hypotheses => customer discovery and mkt validation.
  • Brainmates: We try to stay engage with what people do and how they behave.

Fourth question: “How do your insights impact your products and activities?

  • rcauvin: Some insights have rendered feature ideas obsolete and replaced w/ entirely new ways of solving problems.

Fifth question: “Any difference in how startups and big companies should approach market definition?

  • davidwlocke: Big companies are affraid to innovate because of risk. Startups don’t have the systems, cost structure, nor the policy structure. Product Management is only part of a big company’s approach.
  • Brainmates: Market definition is a process that should be done by startups and big business. Both may not define their market well though .. each have their own unique constraints.

If this was a good read, join us next week when Jim Holland leads the next discussion on Building Market Authority.

Product Management Training