Most entrepreneurs I know haven’t done any market research. Not because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t know how. For whatever reason, market research intimidates people. Or, it just bores them.
Maybe it’s because the very idea of it conjures up images of surveys, focus groups, and painfully boring PowerPoint presentations. It’s also just not as fun as other parts of a business. Coders like to code. Marketers like to work on automation. You know, all the sexy stuff. The ironic thing is, market research actually influences both the code written and the marketing tactics used!
Well, I have good news for you. Market research is not only easy, it’s fun! Especially if you know how to do it. And we will do it with the world’s most popular research tool: Google.
Even if you don’t use Google for personal use, it’s a great tool given the immense amount of data.
Google also happens to have plenty of options available to you for researching your market, all of which you have at least heard of, if not used at some point.
But the point of this article is not to overwhelm you, so don’t worry. We will keep things easy. I think keeping it easy is important because the beginning is where most people get stuck with market research. At first, they don’t know how to do it, then they dig deeper and realize that there are a ton of really advanced strategies for getting actionable insights. There are just too many options, and folks get nervous about picking only one.
Choosing just one option is better than none, and I am going to give you three simple methods you can use today with Google that will go a long way in your near-term and long-term market research. Because that’s the thing: market research never ends. It’s part of your strategy to be competitive!
So, let’s jump into it, starting with a tool that you’ve undoubtedly heard of in the past, but perhaps forgot about.
Such a simple tool, yet often underutilized.
Google Alerts is a great way to “set it and forget it” when it comes to keeping an eye on your market. Rather than having to do research every day, it just “taps you on the shoulder” whenever something is happening. And the reach is far & wide, including any of these areas:
Let’s run through an example of using Google Alerts for market research. In this hypothetical, we will use “help desk software” for the industry. I happen to know of a newer option called Thrivedesk, and they are entering a packed market. Not impossible, but more work than some other industries, that’s for sure.
So, first thing I would do is to create an alert for my own brand. This way, I would be aware when anyone mentions my company. The parameters would look something like this:
I would use the same parameters for my next alerts, specifically my competitors. This is where you need to choose wisely. Obviously, there are some major players in the space, but that doesn’t necessarily make all of them a competitor. I would make a similar alert for Freshdesk and Help Scout. Then I’d look to see who else is making a run at these big players. After just a little research, I found Groove. Their approach to the market is slightly different, and they look more nimble. It’d be good to keep tabs on them.
The great thing about Google Alerts for market research purposes is that it will keep an eye out for mentions of not only brand names (companies), but also any industry. You could make an alert for “help desk software”, for example. This way, if a topic pops up on Reddit or Twitter, you’ll be in the know and can jump in!
I like Google Trends for two reasons:
- You can get a quick, high-level overview of the market.
- You can get ideas for content creation.
All you have to do is enter in your desired industry term or company name. For instance, I put in “help desk software” and can see that the interest over time is rather consistent. That’s good!
Aside from that, you should glance at the Related queries section to get an idea of related searches people are making related to the topic. This is a great way to get some insight into possible content marketing themes (blog posts, for example).
The nice thing about that section is that it’s not overwhelmingly huge. You can see we only have eight queries available (for the past 12 months) that Google classifies as “Rising”. That makes them good candidates for your content strategy, since they are in demand.
Google Trends is a nifty tool for getting high-level analysis of your market. It’s worth checking in on it every now and again to see if there are any shifts with your competitors or the industry.
No kidding, right? But hear me out. There is actually a little trick for using Google search for market research.
There is a certain search term that will give you a ton of great resources to look into further when it comes to researching your market. Specifically, we want to know which other options are considered “big players”, and which are “newcomers” into the space.
How do we do this? By searching Product Name +alternative.
Perhaps you have done this before in your daily life, but have you done it for your own industry or product? I like this search because it will give you:
- Listicles – You know, the articles that list out all the various popular options available. If you’re not on the list, reach out to the author! Read through the article and find out how each option is being described. You can easily spot who is competing on price versus value, and which segment of the market they occupy.
- Reviews – This one I absolutely love, since reviews can be an absolute goldmine for how you build your brand positioning strategy.
You can get creative with the “alternative” search as well. For instance, I like to also add Reddit into the search, since I have found Reddit to be a place of unfiltered opinions. So, you would Google Product Name +reddit, or even Product Name +alternative + reddit. I did my own search on the latter and got results like this:
Some really great information in there! Just out of curiosity, I clicked on one and found this interesting post:
Why was this interesting? Well, I noticed several locations where Gorgias was mentioned. Prior to this exercise, I had never heard of that company, but on Reddit it has some big fans! If it were me, I would research this company a bit more to see how they position their offering. Their pricing looks to be high (based on the comments), so maybe it’s possible to extract what people like about them and package it at a more accessible price!
Then, you can reply to these threads and offer up your solution as a “more affordable Gorgias” option. Be careful not to come off spammy though, just be transparent about it. I would say something like:
I saw many people raving about Gorgias and had a look. All I can say is “wow”, they really do have a great offering! But I agree with you on the price piece. I run a help desk software startup as well, and we decided to add in XYZ feature from Gorgias since people like it so much. Perhaps it would work for you? Let me know what you think.
See how market research can turn into customer outreach! And that’s the name of the game: getting (and speaking) to your potential customers based on what it is they actually want.
One final note about Google Searches: don’t stop on the first page. Everyone stops after one, maybe two pages, of search results. Don’t. There is plenty of gold to be found on pages three, four, and five!
This exercise is not a “one and done” activity. Your market is constantly evolving, so you need to always be on top of it.
Look, I get it. Market research is time-consuming and not the most exciting part of business. Most people just do it once before they launch and call it quits. Yet, that’s just the beginning!
As you compete in a market, you learn more about it. You start to gain a better understanding about how quick it moves, the players involved, and the competitive advantages enjoyed by each company.
This is when things get really fun because now your market research can quickly turn into market strategy. Done right, that can result in more money for your business!
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