When You Can’t Just Google It


How to conduct market research and avoid looking stupid

What’s the best way to grill eggplant? Google knows! Fastest route to the nearest Chipotle? Google it. And how about the most effective way to treat poison ivy? Google and Google and Google it. Research. We all do it and the interwebs has made it, especially in a pinch, easy to conduct.         

That said, it’s not the nitty-gritty, up-to-the-elbows, total autopsy that market research requires (no offense, Googlers). Market research can’t be distilled down to a quick online search. The research the WhiteSpace team conducts is a bit more intensive – it’s the kind that requires us to roll up the sleeves and dive head first into a project. It’s a good thing we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty.  

Preparation prevents poor performance.

It’s an old adage from the restaurant industry, but applies here, too. If you’re prepared, as in you did your research and know the ins and outs of the market, you’re putting yourself in position to succeed. Here are a few techniques to consider when undertaking research:

Talk to people. You’re doing this research because you’re not an expert. So maybe, you know, it’d be a good idea to talk to some experts. Pick their brains and learn how a product works, what it does, what it doesn’t do and so on. WhiteSpacers have met face-to-face with engineers, conducted interviews with business movers and shakers, and held conference calls with industry insiders – just to get even the smallest nugget of information. 

Take a tour. Get in your car and drive to the factory, facility, warehouse – wherever the experts do what they do. In our experience, most people are happy to show off their work and more than willing to help you. Plus, there’s something about seeing things up close that adds value and experience to your knowledge base. As an aside: If nothing else, it’s often pretty cool to see the inner workings of a different industry.

Become the audience. Approach your research from across the table. Go to where the product is sold or used. Take the time to see how the product or service is seen from a customer’s perspective. If your client makes a food product, go to the grocery store and see where it’s positioned, how it compares to the competitors and engage with it as if you were actually buying the product. If the service is in a restaurant, go eat there. If your client is, say, a library, go browse the shelves. See where we’re going with this?

Keep your enemies closer. Okay, a bit intense. But know what you’re up against in the market. Who are your competitors? What do they do well? Where do they come up short? Where does your client fit and what opportunities are available? Having a feel for the industry’s landscape is crucial to creating a campaign that positions your client’s product for success and increases the likelihood of achieving your goals.  

Why it’s important.

The word research can evoke a sense of sterility and boredom. It takes people back to dull college research papers involving topics of little interest to anyone other than the teachers – and even their interest was debatable. But with client research, it’s less about feigning passable interest and more about becoming living, breathing experts of specific products and services. When a WhiteSpacer dives into a project, we want to speak the client’s language, finish their sentences and understand just what, exactly, differentiates one brand of urethane-based bed liner spray from the traditional plastic drop-in bed liner.

Also, when you put in the legwork and do the research, you’re not just doing your due diligence, but you’re also making your job easier. A common saying among writers is “write what you know” and, if you don’t know something, like if a naked mole rat is actually a mole or merely a rat (FYI: it’s neither) – you research it. When you have the information, executing your project becomes less complicated because – shocking – you know what you’re talking about.

Be honest in your approach.

The truth is, if for no other reason other than it’s your freaking job, research is important because people can spot BS pretty quickly. If you don’t do your research, the best case scenario is you look dumb. But there’s still the chance you cost yourself (and your company) credibility, which is easy to lose and hard to earn back. So do your research. Avoid looking stupid. Enjoy the learning experience. And don’t look stupid… did we mention that?

Have a project you need help tackling? Just give us a holler! We’re ready to dive in.


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