“Hindsight is 20/20”… “if only”… and “regrettably” are the terms uttered by those who have learned the hard way through experience. The same holds true for companies who have skipped or skimmed over the critical market research step of building a new product launch marketing plan. If you’re about to develop or launch a new product, you don’t have to make the same mistakes. Instead, you can learn from the experience of others. Here are some tips and examples that highlight what most companies regret if they’ve initiated a new product launch marketing plan without adequate market research.

The Top Three Reasons to Remember Market Research

The new product launch marketing plan often gains traction quickly (perhaps too quickly, in some cases). Soon, all parties are entrenched in its execution, hurriedly advancing through checklists, watching the calendar and myopically focusing on the launch date. In the absence of market research, a failed new product launch is the inevitable result.

Don’t be the company that skips the mission-critical step of market research. Take note of what most companies regret when they bypass market research in a new product launch marketing plan. Learn from companies like Coca-Cola® and McDonald’s® why market research provides a roadmap for the best chance at success. Here are the top three reasons why market research is the best tool in your toolbox:

  1. Conducting market research from the start clarifies goals, participants’ roles, and without it, most companies regret the time wasted defining and redefining initiatives aiming at a moving target.
  2. Market research helps mitigate risk by giving perspective on your market. It’s better to bet on “the devil you know” versus “the devil you don’t.” Ultimately, when realizing they lack a critical understanding of the marketplace, most companies regret investing resources into a new product launch marketing plan.
  3. New product launch marketing plans are costly. Incomplete or inadequate market research adds to that cost through wasted resources. An incomplete plan also contributes to delays and distracts key staff from other needed efforts.

What Can Happen in the Absence of Market Research

While you may have a vision, it may not align with market realities. In fact, putting your vision ahead of the market can hamper success. In a crowded market, what seems unique may be background noise. Worse, you may position your product in a way that doesn’t resonate with your market. The outcome: a product that doesn’t sell.

It’s important to understand your audience: where they work and live, how they play, and why they will seek out your product. Without market research insights, instead of taking an informed approach to personalizing and positioning your brand, it will be a guess based on a lack of understanding of how to speak to your audience.

Wasted resources build and unbudgeted expenses mount when executing a new product launch marketing plan not guided by market research. This leads to delays in the launch’s execution. One infamous example is New Coke™, circa 1985. Coca-Cola assumed customers bought less Coke™ than Pepsi® because of the taste. They created a new, ultra-sweet cola and tested it extensively with over 200,000 people. More than half preferred the new formula. However, no one was prepared for the massive fallout when New Coke replaced Coke on the shelves. The market research missed the inextricable emotional link Americans had to the original, authentic brand and a sense of nostalgia, pride, family. The result? An unsatisfactory ending.

The “best case” scenario of an uninformed new product launch marketing plan is a loss of credibility and a negative impact on sales of your existing products already on the market. At worst, the loss of resources and reputation because of the launch may be the death knell for your company. Start-ups are particularly vulnerable to this taking place. The bottom line? Market research to shape your new product launch marketing plan can either make or break your business.

How to Make Market Research Effective

Conducting market research is not a simple “check the box” exercise. Just ask McDonald’s. Their 2005 “I’d hit it” advertising campaign for a dollar menu version of their double cheeseburger launched featuring a man slobbering over his burger was a recipe for instant disaster. Of course, McDonald’s conducted market research. The brief generated could be summed up as “design something affordable for the young customers and use hip, colloquial jargon to sound like they do.” Right concept. Wrong context.

From these examples, market research is essential to developing a new product launch marketing plan with the potential for success. Perform market research that matters.  Sounds simple, but, how? The key is to take an authentic interest in your consumer. To learn more about your customer and how to find out the best way to market to them through research, consider leveraging all three of the methods (and their benefits) listed below.

  1. Online forums and bulletin board groups
    • Identify needs and behaviors, look for patterns and trends
    • Test ideas and approaches, be authentic, listen more than you push and receive feedback gracefully
    • Understand why people feel the way they do by asking “Why?” when you need clarity
  1. Surveys
    • Validate a theory and engage a larger group to get meaningful results through numbers
    • Aim for a rounded view of how to market your product by applying a variety of methods and engaging your customers in several forums
  1. Crowd-weaving
    • Develop your product by leveraging co-creation and encouraging feedback
    • Uncover unmet needs by exposing your target market to your product, either through digital representation or physically by providing free samples
    • Identify potential new offerings to expand your product portfolio or to inspire future versions by engaging with prospective customers to find out where the product excels and where it misses
    • See the problems that you can solve by tracking unusual or unexpected ways that customers are using your product (or others like it)

Everywhere, competition is fierce. In some markets, it’s tougher than others. The right resources are not always available. Most companies and individuals accept these truths – but to develop a new product launch marketing plan in the absence of market research will only put you on the road to regrets.

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