Market Opportunity Study

Market Opportunity Research: What’s the Point?

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Authored byKrista Daly
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Authored byPhilippe Boutros

Research needs to be acted on. Otherwise, what’s the point? A market opportunity study is one of the most powerful tools a business leader can use to drive that change.

Too often an organization falls down the rabbit hole after launching a market opportunity effort, simply because they can’t see the path forward.

At Cascade, we don’t just drop market opportunity research on your (virtual) desk and walk away. Instead we stick with you to make sure you learn, apply, and drive change inside your organization.

Product Teams: Revision or Reboot

Product teams tend to invent the new or revise the old. The well-worn path of revision will lead a product team to slightly alter your existing offerings. Inventing the new will lead to the development of an entirely new product or a radical reboot of what you offer today.

Given the significant impact that a revision or reboot decision will have on your company’s prospects, it’s important to make that decision based on research. If you’re going to the market with an existing product, you’ll need to understand how your new audience will use this product differently than your current customers.

A market opportunity study can help a great deal in that regard by answering a number of key questions, like the following:

  • Will new customers care about a feature that isn’t a high priority to your current customers?
  • What novel workflows do these new users have that you need to help enable?
  • Do new customers need to access your service through a mobile app that doesn’t yet exist?
  • What about the onboarding process is especially critical for these users to know?
  • How does this new segment’s jobs-to-be-done differ from your current market segment?
  • What adjacent/complementary toolsets does this new customer segment use?

Make a Fresh Start

If you reboot, you’re likely going to need to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to start.

“Without first building a minimal version, a typical startup doesn’t know what to tweak. It’s sort of like writing a blog post. Your editor can’t help you revise until the draft is done—after several rounds of revisions, you’ll eventually be ready to publish.”—Philippe Boutros, Chief of Staff, Cascade Insights

Often released as an alpha or beta version, the MVP has just enough features that you can take it to market. Once at market, you’ll get feedback on its usability, which features are most important, and if there’s anything missing that’s vital to the user. You’ll gain an understanding of:

  • Are customers using the product in the ways that you expected?
  • What additional capabilities are customers willing to pay for?
  • Are customers submitting tickets for similar issues? What are they?
  • Who are current users inviting to use your product?
  • What user segments never really ‘stick’? Who are the most loyal beta users?
  • What integrations are customers asking for—or attempting to build themselves?

Sales: Is Your Playbook Current?

Your market opportunity study will reveal the best way to revise and strengthen your sales playbook so you can make the game-winning home run. As Yogi Berra said, “Make a game plan and stick to it. Unless it’s not working.”

Market opportunity research might show you’ve been targeting the wrong Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). The same research might tell you to shift your sales efforts to a different persona where you’ll have better results.

You might also learn that your sales tactics are outdated or misaligned. Your new ICP is going to think and care about entirely different matters than whom you previously targeted. How you speak to them and capture their attention will have to reflect that.

Finally, here are some additional questions market opportunity research can answer for sales teams:

  • What are the most common pain points that this new market segment has?
  • What is seen as a table stake in this segment? A true differentiator?
  • How do potential customers make buying decisions about solutions like yours?
  • What competitors are you likely to encounter? How should you position against them?
  • During customer conversations, what salient trends in this segment should sales have in mind?
  • What do potential customers already think about our offering or our company before I contact them?

Case Study: Whale Hunting Isn’t Always A Good Idea

One of our clients is a prominent supplier of IT security solutions. During a recent market opportunity study we discovered exactly what Ideal Customer Profile their sales team should be focused on.

Those we interviewed said they were well aware of the security solution offered by our client. However, our analysis showed that enterprises wouldn’t necessarily choose our client for a variety of reasons.

Hearing this is a challenge for any business organization. Many organizations want to “hunt whales”. In essence, they want to aim for larger accounts with bigger budgets.

Unfortunately for our client, it was clear that enterprises should be de-prioritized.  At best considered on a case-by-case basis. Instead, our client should try to grow their customer base by targeting smaller organizations that fit a particular technographic profile, which we were able to provide.

Marketing: Who Am I?

Inevitably, you’ll also gain a sense of what people think of your brand and of the competition during a market opportunity study. You’ll pick up answers such as:

  • How does your pricing compare to the competition?
  • Do prospects enter into conversations with negative or positive perceptions of your brand?
  • How serious do customers think you are about this market?
  • Are there key partnerships or actions you can take to improve your brand equity?
  • How do customers perceive the caliber of your solution relative to your competitors?
  • What non-product attributes are important for you to message to?
  • Do prospects immediately understand what your offering does and doesn’t do in a particular business context?

Answering these types of questions is critical for any B2B marketer. Without answers to these questions, you’re inevitably going to build ineffective marketing campaigns, websites, and messaging.

Plus, by knowing what your buyers (or rather your non-buyers) are thinking, you can distinguish yourself from your competitors. Part of distinguishing yourself requires a little inspiration from The Who. As they famously sang, “I really wanna know. Who are you? Who, who, who, who?” If you don’t have a clear picture of who you are, how are you supposed to sell yourself to others?

Case Study: Increasing Your Visibility

During a market opportunity study for a SaaS company who offered project management software, we discovered that a key market segment was very unlikely to consider our client’s solution.

This lack of consideration was driven by a lack of visibility. B2B marketers who were targeted by this company simply had no idea our client’s solution was in the market. Or that it could meet their needs.

Given the findings, we advised our client to create more compelling campaigns, assets, and messaging frameworks that would resonate with B2B marketers. As well as up their game when it came to brand awareness efforts.

Without this clarity, our client would have likely spent months or years building marketing assets that completely missed this untapped market segment of B2B marketers.

Blow Away the Fog

Carl Sandburg once wrote “the fog comes in on little cat feet.” What is true about fog in the outdoors is also true of how fog creeps in over a company. Slowly, inexorably, until it makes everything hard to see. Including who you are supposed to reach, what you are supposed to say to them, and how you’re truly different.

Market opportunity research can blow away that fog. The clarity an organization gets from an independent view of customers, prospects, and competitor customers can make it easy to navigate. This makes it easy to confidently change marketing, sales, and product strategies.

So the next time you’re in a meeting about strategy, ICPs, or market segments, ask yourself, “How much fog is in the room?” And isn’t it time we blew it away?

After you do that, give us a call, and we’ll be glad to bring the sun back in.

With 15 years of experience in the B2B technology sector, Cascade Insights can be your guiding compass, so you know how to make the best of your market opportunity. Learn more about market research here.

Special thanks to Philippe Boutros, Cascade Insights Chief of Staff, and Scott Swigart, Cascade Insights Chief Research Officer, for advising on this piece.

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