As product managers, we do a substantial amount of research. Depending on your background, research will either be easy, or it will be hard. I will go over three key questions you need to answer as a product manager, before beginning research.
Research is using tools and techniques to discover answers to questions, theories, or hypothesis. Research can be an immense undertaking, requiring time and organization to effectively perform. Before beginning, you should know how, why, and what. How am I going to perform the research? Why am I doing the research? What am I going to do with the data once I am done?
Research will be based on business goals and requirements typically. Some forms of research you may do are market research, competitive analysis, and new product development. These will be done to strengthen your product line, and to stay aware of the markets trends and developments.
The first question, why you are doing your research, needs to be clearly defined before you begin. Is this for competitive analysis? Are you looking for new product ideas? Are you polling customers for feedback? Try to clearly identify your reason, plus the end goal. A few good examples are:
1. Keeping abreast of your competitor’s social media campaigns.
2. Understanding new technology in your target industry.
3. Polling customers for pain point.
4. Communicating with customers to find feature or product request.
5. Comprehensive market review and analysis.
6. New parts available.
Once you have clearly identified why you are preparing your research, you are then ready to begin.
How you are going to perform your research will vary from topic to topic. Try to start your research with good organization. I will create a folder on my computer, and name it based on the research. If I am doing a competitive analysis, I will call the folder “TheirName_Research_2017”. This folder will then go into my “Research_2017” folder. I keep my research together, clearly named and defined for ease of retrieval.
Once I have my structure in place I will create a couple of subfolders such as graphics and downloads. I will also create a Word or Excel file, sometimes both, which is where I will keep notes, prices, information, and an outline of my search goals and objectives. Next, I try and gather as much data as I can to support my goals and objectives.
In performing your research, you may find yourself browsing social media, business articles, internal databases, or random websites. You may be calling or emailing existing and potential customers. You may set up internal meetings with co-workers to pick their brains. Try to always think of all possible sources of data.
Finally, the big question, what do I do with the data? What you do with the data is defined by why you are doing the research. Is it to update the sales and marketing team about competitor’s strategy? Is it to create a new business case? Do you need this data to guide long term or short-term business goals?
Sticking with the earlier example of competitor analysis, your end goal may be a quick presentation concerning what the competitor is doing. Are they putting up content on a regular basis when once they weren’t? Have customers called and let you know there is a new product coming? Are they attending a show they previously didn’t attend?
When presenting the data, be sure and have references and facts ready to back up assumptions and conclusions, try to leave personal opinions out of it. If you have no concrete evidence, it is okay to add a note about your suspicions or opinion on direction, but ensure it is clearly marked as opinion, not fact.
Once you begin to understand a process that works for you, and you get a grasp of the three questions, you have a good starting point for your research. Try to evolve and fine tune your process over time. As with all things related to business, being flexible is necessary.
I hope you enjoyed this post, be sure to like, subscribe and share. Thursdays post will follow along with the research theme by going over SWOT analysis.