While we stress the value of serious conversations with prospects and customers there are other sources of market insights on emerging opportunities for your current product or next offering. I have placed them on a spectrum that runs from a macroscopic view based on objective measurements and numbers to a microscopic view that is more subjective and based on stories.

I have included some options that are available to more established firms so that early stage firms remain mindful of sources of information not yet available to them.  I don’t think you should proceed top down  as much as consult the variety of sources that you have available to cross check and verify insights from any single source.

Macroscopic / Objective / Numbers / Trends

  • Published Statistics
    • Market statistics
    • Government statistics (e.g. census, labor bureau, …)
    • Third Party Market Studies and Analysis
    • Independent financial analysis of public companies
  • Third Party Perspectives
    • News articles, blog posts, and other third party stories
    • Editorial Calendars and Conference call for paper topic lists
    • Third Party Experts and Analysts (who have surveyed / interviewed prospects)
    • Interview potential partners / channels
  • Surveys
    • Survey prospects directly
    • Survey customers (if you have them)
    • Responses to adwords, landing pages, and other probes
  • Public conversations
    • Discussions of problems and issues in public mailing lists
    • Published papers and articles authored by prospects
    • Panels and presentations at conference and trade shows
  • Public data about competitors – website and other published content
    • Product Datasheets and Service Descriptions
    • Positioning statements
    • Case Studies (in particular the implied frame of reference and what’s rarely or never mentioned)
  • Direct Conversation with Prospects
    • Exploratory / Problem Discovery conversations
    • Demo Feedback
    • Benchmark / Evaluation / Trial use feedback
    • Proposals to Prospects (and their reaction)
  • Win-loss analysis (talk with both prospects and customers)
  • Direct conversations with Customers
    • Why did they buy?
    • What do they use?
    • How do they use it differently than you anticipated (are they “using it wrong!”)?
    • New Features / Needs
    • Case Studies

Microscopic / Subjective / Stories