Humans think in narratives. Before computers, before printed or even written text, information was passed down verbally, in stories. These tales helped people remember themes, lessons, and survival information, and then to retell the story to others. In today’s embarrassment of information riches, we sometimes forget this basic truth – a great story resonates in someone’s mind far beyond the telling.
Storytelling has been blossoming lately for this very reason. It’s vital to companies seeking initial, or additional, capital to be able to tell their story to those with the money. While financials back up the story, that initial pitch to potential investors can mean the difference between being considered and being forgotten.
Marketing research reduces risk and illustrates increased upside.
Sometimes lost in this quest for a compelling brand story, however, is where the thematic details originate. Some entrepreneurs are so persuasive in their vision that their passion alone, mixed with fun “driving around from store to store” and “maxing out personal credit cards” details can be enough. But for most mere mortals, it helps to have something more: marketing research.
True marketing research, not just research on the market, results can show potential investors that your venture is on the right track. Business plans usually rely on secondary research into the industry and market. Primary marketing research can move your venture further, helping you demonstrate value, viability, and demand for your specific product or service. It can also be a way to illustrate the potential success of marketing tactics, attracting capital by reducing the perceived risk of a new venture.
Of course beyond its investor-grabbing impact, marketing research can also help reduce the mistakes that can be caused by moving ahead on a poorly thought through product concept or an incorrect brand positioning strategy.
Investment money looks for improved chances of success and reduced risk, exactly the qualities that marketing research can add to a situation.
Early stage research needs focus on product, brand positioning and target market.
New product concept testing: Testing your product concept in front of actual possible buyers, not just your friends and family, can illustrate demand, caveats to success, and details that can be more easily changed while the company is smaller. To investors, it can show them what buyers think and want. Video of the research process and quotes from actual consumers add storytelling elements.
Brand positioning strategy: Clarifying the strategy behind all communications by creating a brand positioning statement and the reasons to back it up will mean the elevator pitch version of your brand story writes itself. And all other communications, be it an investor presentation, social media, or product descriptions will be based upon this statement, meaning they cohesively work together to build your brand.
Target market research: Who are your buyers? Who are they not? Clarifying these questions and adding demographic, psychographic and behavioral richness around your description will make your product, communications, channel, and pricing decisions work. Investors can be told the story of your buyers. In the end, stories about people draw people, including those with money to invest.
Qualitative and quantitative market research each might have their place. Qualitative research gives you rich storytelling elements and can provide answers to questions you don’t yet know to ask. Quantitative marketing research puts the “how many” into the equation and can be used along with financial numbers to add ROI heft to your pitch.
Funding early stage research might be done creatively.
Some angel investors may want to invest in marketing research to help your company get off the ground with the best odds of success. You might look to industry resources for secondary research done for your type of business. You might do some of the research in-house or pitch new investors, using initial marketing research results, on the benefits of doing more.
Many companies wait until they are substantially larger to do “real” marketing research, so including professional market research in the earlier stages can make you stand out just by doing it. Which can give the brand story you tell your potential investors a happy ending.
Colorado-based market research consultant Jennifer Cooper leads BuyerSynthesis, helping brands grow revenues by better understanding their buyers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.