It’s not simply about cost, right?

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Since I decided to specialise in offering market research for startups, I’ve spent a lot of time listening. I’d worked with a number of startups, scale-ups and small businesses in the past when Customer IQ’s offer was much broader but felt I needed to spend time listening more than talking (ie. selling).


Listening is good, it helps you understand. Hearing repeated phrases and sentiment was incredibly useful in being able to identify patterns and similarities. I couldn’t simply plough ahead and build an offer for startup founders without having spent time listening. I am a researcher by nature, after all. I like to spend time listening.


(OK, you get the point!)


Something I heard a lot was the sentiment around affordability…

“I can’t afford that”

“It’s too expensive”

It’s true, startup founders – whether bootstrapped or with investment – have to be very careful about where they spend their money. Getting stuff for free or at very low cost is the playbook of choice for many.


In response, I might create a very low-cost research offer. A no-frills, highly-automated process with very minimal spend required.


But anything in life – research included – which is offered as very low-cost is likely to be crap. Who actually wants bad research?


You can draw a parallel with branding and brand development. To do this well costs a chunk of money but there are options to do it for very little or nothing at all.


But who wants a crap brand with sh!t branding?

  • Investors who see poor branding and design will ignore your pitch deck
  • Customers who see poor branding will dismiss you outright
  • Potential candidates won’t want to work with you if your branding sucks

And, founders DO spend money. They invest more readily, and more heavily in building product and services. An MVP costs what, £5k to £10k minimum? I know others spend FAR more than that.


What about investing a small % of that budget into research and brand development?

“But without a product, I have no business”

Yes but without knowing more about the market, the audience, the problem you’re solving – your business is going to struggle to get off the ground.


Without a brand and some solid branding, you’re never going to be noticed or taken seriously enough to succeed.


It’s obviously a tricky balance to get right and I’m conscious this is sounding like a giant whinge. It’s not meant to be. I work with many founders who have (what I would call) the right kind of mindset towards building a business. Who value customer insight and a strong brand from day one.


There are some founders who I’ll never reach, some for whom spending outside of the product build is harder to justify. And that’s fine – if there’s one thing I’ve learnt along the way it’s that the phrase ‘you’re not for everyone’ couldn’t be more true.


But I do feel for those who I could be helping but who I probably never will get to help. The ones who’d rather trust their gut, the ones who have worked in an industry for long enough and simply ‘know’ their idea will work, the ones who’d rather jump right into building something before figuring out if anyone needs it.


So ‘cheers’ 🍻 to the founders with the mindset for insight and understanding. And to the others, I’ll still be working on you for years to come, rest assured. Market research for startups includes startups like you and I can be as patient as I need to be.


Until then, I salute you!


The image for this post comes from a collection of digital ads I’m trialling to drive some awareness to Customer IQ. I’m trying to be a little pointed, if you’d like to see more of them then let me know.

Would you like to learn how to run your own research?



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