by Howard Jacobson,June 13, 2014Comments
PPC has long been the cheapest, quickest, easiest way to test-market products and services, offers and pricing, positioning and copywriting.
But in order to use PPC to ask and answer questions about what the market thinks of your offers, you have to already have a product or service ready to go. Whatever your ad promises, your landing page has to begin to deliver.
And no savvy entrepreneur would create their product without doing a ton of market research first, so they could have some confidence that enough people were willing to pay to solve that particular problem.
So we’ve got a Catch 22: you can’t do PPC market research without a product, and you can’t build your product without that market research.
Before we solve that problem, let’s talk briefly about what that preliminary market research needs to address. According to Sharon Livingston of The Livingston Group, the first step is to identify your bulls-eye customers: the ones who are most like to buy into the functional and emotional benefits of your product.
If I’m thinking about offering a vegan meal delivery service, I can create very different products depending on who my market is. I can do frozen meals for busy families with large freezers. I can offer freshly made, locally-sourced gourmet meals for wealthy urbanites. I can use lots of “fake meats” for new vegans still missing their beef and bacon, or stick to whole foods and lots of produce for people more concerned about reversing or preventing disease.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The initial market research should inform the creation of my Minimum Viable Product (MVP), a phrase popularized in Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup. The MVP needs to meet, not global needs, but the needs of a specific set of early adopters who will be willing to try something new, not expect instant perfection, give feedback, and eventually evangelize. Steve Blank, in his book “Four Steps to the Epiphany”, calls these customers “earlyvangelists.”
So how do we conduct that research?
Step 1: Identify potential market segments
You can’t test a market segment until you’ve defined it. So for my vegan meal service, I start by making some assumptions. Some of these are based on my own experience, some might be based on things I’ve seen or read or heard, and some are probably just hunches.
For example: Women will be more interested in men. Liberals more than conservatives. Urban more than rural. Families with kids more than singles or double income, no-kid families.
These assumptions may or may not be true. Since we’re testing them, we’re not relying upon them. But we can’t test them until we name them specifically.
So I might come up with three contestants for earlyvangelist:
A vegan mother of two kids still at home who works outside the home, lives in a big city or suburb of a big city, and whose total household income exceeds $75,000.A college-educated, married woman in her early 60s whose husband is on meds for hypertension and whose daughter told her to watch a documentary on the relationship between food and health.A single woman in her 20s who lives in a big city, blogs for a hobby, and never learned to cook.Step 2: Figure out how to reach these market segments
A market segment is useful to you only if you can reach them reliably and affordably. Here, Facebook Graph Search is one of the most useful tools around. Kevin Milani, VP of Digital Marketing for Virtual Marketing Staff, uses Graph Search to find out about people who like similar products and services to the ones his clients plan to launch.
You use Graph Search by entering strings of search parameters into the global Facebook search bar at the top of the page: