Since the times of Peter Drucker, starting in the mid-1900s, pretty much anyone in business has been
told to listen to the market. All the experts have a formula of how to be market-driven, how to drive
your business from the perspective of your target audience rather than making decisions purely through
the lens of the business’ operations.
It makes sense; change is the only constant, so we have to continually listen to the world outside our
business. Even when we have employees who were, themselves, customers or users of our products,
their knowledge quickly becomes out of date – the market facts they carry are fresh for a few weeks
after they’re hired….and then, they become skewed by the company and its current concerns.
It’s logical to desire that market input, an intimate understanding of the people we’re serving – but how
do we actually go about gathering the right data? How do we keep it fresh and true?
Analyze and Articulate it
First of all, stop assuming that your teams understand the market you’re serving, or those you hope to
serve. Take the time to analyze the commonality that draws the segment together, and articulate it for
your organization. Don’t force your people to wonder who they should be caring about (and NOT caring
When articulating a market, draw attention to the common characteristics of those types of businesses
or consumers. Couple that with an indication of the qualifying characteristic for your offering. For
instance – imagine you’re building an offering for manufacturing environments. We should define our
sweet spot – are these manufacturing facilities in the US? Europe? China? Are they massive
organizations, with over a billion in revenue? Or are we targeting smaller factories, perhaps with less
than $25 million in revenue? Are they focused on a particular type of manufacturing?
So first, think about the characteristics of those businesses that you want to target. Then, consider the
unique qualifications that indicate a company who SHOULD want your offering. Perhaps these are
manufacturing organizations who are serving shrinking markets, so they’re focused on reducing
production costs or even reducing the workforce. Or perhaps we’re targeting manufacturers who are
growing, and trying to squeeze as much production as possible from their existing facilities. Describe
those targets, according to their current position or thinking.
Write it down, then share it with your team. Use this definition as a rally cry for forward movement.
Study the Right People
Next, we have to think about the ecosystem within the market segment we’re targeting. We need to get
multiple perspectives from these target organizations, so we can see the full picture.
Who has the authority to shop for and eventually purchase our solution? We’ll call these folks
“buyers”….even when they’re not actively shopping. They own the budget. This may be an individual, a
small group, or even a committee.
Second, who will interact directly with the product? That is, who will be our users? Identify their
departments and titles, and recognize that users are often radically different from the buyers – with
different characteristics, motivations, and goals.
Are there other targets to be concerned with? Perhaps someone else in the organization benefits from
the solution; the CFO receives reports, or the IT folks need to maintain the server.
Map out the people we need to know. This is the beginning of our target list for research – we want to
possess market facts from multiple organizations, and from each of the individual player’s perspectives.
Execute Well, with the Right Owners
Finally, begin figuring out who in your organization should be responsible for a deep understanding of
each target person in each target market. To reduce the chance of skewed data, I like to spread this
responsibility across the team; then, when the time comes to form conclusions and pick our strategy,
we’ve got multiple viewpoints in the conversation.
To pick the right owners, think about what those specific market facts will enable. Studying users will
enable a solid design, tailored for the right audience. Whoever is working with your designers should be
responsible for studying users. Understanding the people who will buy the solution will inform our
future business planning, and will support our marketing and sales efforts. Studying the decisions those
buyers make (who to shop with, what to buy) will help us tweak our approach to sales and marketing.
This type of research, known as win-loss analysis, is best owned by a marketing person who is involved
in execution of our sales and marketing programs.
Listen to your Market….Wisely
To begin turning your organization toward the market, thereby enabling your teams to become truly market-driven – analyze and define your target segments, figure out the individuals you need to know, and assign ownership for gathering market facts from each individual within each target segment. Send
them out to do consistent market research, and you’ll have all the facts you need to drive a stellar