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IPMA Event Report: Market Research Using Social Media

(This is a live blog of the presentation on Market Research using Social Media, by Pinkesh Shah, for the Indian Product Managers Association (IPMA) Pune event. Since it is a live blog, it might have errors, and won’t be as well organized as an article ought to be. Please keep that in mind while reading.)

Background – Why is Market Research Important

Product Management is really about Value management. There are five parts to it:

  • Understanding Value: Understand what the customer wants / care about
  • Creating Value: Build the Product
  • Capturing Value: Making sure that your product is appropriately priced. It is not necessary that you charge for the product immediately, or at all. You might make money somewhere else.
  • Communicating Value: Position your value proposition appropriately
  • Delivering Value: Making sure your product / value reaches the right person. Having the correct Channels.
Pinkesh Shah talking at IPMA Pune

For your next product or product feature, you will have lots of idea. But knowing what will really be the right thing to focus on is difficult. For a successful product or feature, the following pipeline is important:

  • Market Analysis: Choosing what to build
  • Strategic Analysis: Building the product profitably
  • Building the Product: In India we are very good at this step
  • Go to Market: Marketing it Right
  • Sales Enablement: Selling Effectively

The rest of this talk will focus on mostly on Market Analysis.

What does a PM do? It’s more than just requirement analysis:

  • Champions the customer’s context within the organization
  • Define the roadmap for a product, and deliver products that customers will actually buy
  • Master orchestrator of the productization process

Market Research – An Art and a Science

Ways to do market research:

  • Surveys: very few people do surveys. And it is easy to do. The only thing difficult is to come up with good survey questions. But otherwise this is one of the best and scalable techniques for market research.
  • Talking to your sales guys
  • Reading research reports from people like Gartner
  • Ethnography: watching your customers in their natural setting. In Big Bazaar there are always people standing in a corner of the store and observing customers. They spend 8 hours watching the patterns.
  • User research: Bring users in and make them go through use cases
  • Win Loss Interviews
  • Product Advisory Council: Announce a product, as if it is already done. Put out a Google ad about this product that does not exist. Target it for the geography and demographics that you’re interested. And then check who and how many people are clicking on it. Gives you a good idea of whether it is really working or not. Very easy and cheap way of figuring out whether your product is going to work. And you can do it sitting at home in India for any product targeting anywhere in the world

Why is social media is a great tool for market research?

  • Getting real users in a the real world is a lot of effort. Easier to get users online: LinkedIn, Facebook, Blogger, Quora, Twitter, etc.
  • Viral propagation. Truly borderless. And impossible to do without social media even if you have lots of money
  • Asychronous. You and the users don’t have to be in the same place at the same time. Makes it much easier.
  • Figure out who are the influencers

LinkedIn

Great resource. All people in professional settings are on LinkedIn. Hence, for product management, especially enterprise products, this is a great resource.

Very easy to create surveys / polls on LinkedIn and ask questions about your potential future product / features, and get responses from people all over the world. With demographic information from LinkedIn.

You can not only get quantitative results, but also qualitative results and opinions.

In addition, you get to go back and give updates to all those who participated about what happened, what features were included, etc.

Audience Question: What about competition finding out about your product ideas / features?

Answer: This is a problem with all market research. But in most cases, the idea is not the most important part of the product, so it’s OK. If indeed your idea is the secret sauce, then don’t include it in your market research, but in most cases it is no.

Uservoice

If you are a product manager, you must use Uservoice.

Similarly there is CustomerVoice, an Indian Startup similar to Uservoice, but for India.

Facebook likes are not a good substitute for Uservoice. You need really granular feedback, which a “like” does not give.

Landing Pages

A landing page can be created within 5 minutes of creating an idea. Just put up your idea, ask people to register for the beta. At this point, you don’t have a beta, but you can decide whether to create one or not based on the amount of interest you generate.

Online Ads for Validation

Think of a product. Assume that the product already exists, and create an ad for the product. Put the ad out. Target a few important cities and sectors (e.g. Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, Chennai). See how many people click on the ad, and from which city and sector. That will give you an idea of how much interest is there for your product, and which geographies and sectors your product should target.

Do not start building a product unless you have done this.

Google Ads are good for validating a concept, but not very good for getting an idea of the people who clicked on the ad. LinkedIn ads cost more, but provide much more details about the click-throughs.

Analytics

Make sure you have Google Analytics installed on all your websites. It is free and gives you lots of data on who’s coming and what they’re doing.

In addition there are paid services (often fairly inexpensive) that do even better.

For example, there is an Indian startup called Wingify that allows you to do A/B testing on your website. If you don’t know what A/B testing is, find out now.

Other interesting websites/products

  • Ask Your Target Market: http://aytm.com – ask questions to specific target groups (mostly US)
  • Sprout Social: http://sproutsocial.com – get social media conversations about various keywords
  • CDC Pivotal CRM – get twitter and other social media conversations of each customer

Parting Thought

Samuel Colt, who invented the revolver, said that his invention was one of the most important things ever. Because, he said, “God made men. I’ve enabled them to be equal.” The person without strength, money, knowledge, can still win if s/he has a revolver.

Social Media is the revolver for product management. Anyone can do it now.

Don’t let this weekend end without sending out a survey.

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