Market Research for Sales and Business Development

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If you’re in sales or business development, and isn’t just about everyone in some form, then having market research which tracks change is crucial to compete. Industry statistics are part of that. If I’m researching a topic, say florists for example, I also search the industry name with words like… association, group, institute, industry, society, organisation, board, council and so on. These bodies often have free industry research on trends, or you can usually buy the information at a reasonable cost. The staff of these organisations are also helpful when you need to find out who the shakers and movers are, and then you can contact them for their insight on particular trends you have observed. Don’t forget that when you do this always ask them if there’s anyone else who they think would be good to talk to.

Tips for Buying Market Research Reports

There are a plethora of published market research reports out there, but some of these reports aren’t from credible publishers. Here are some red flags for me.

  • I look at the pagination of the table of contents and noticed that there isn’t much content devoted to a topic or competitor. Basic I know, but if these aspects are the reason for buying the report, then maybe rethink things. For me, this lack of space often corresponds with just contact details supplied or very generic information. In this case, ask for a sample from the publisher to check the content. You can then appraise the sample to reassure yourself about the standard of English used as well. One sample I requested had such a low level of business English that it was intelligible.

  • With markets like medical devices, for instance, there are many different configurations of what is counted or researched in terms of functionality or size. Another trap I have come across is when studying the markets of mechanical devices and how they are powered eg. electric, battery, petrol, or diesel. Researchers often don’t state exactly what they are counting and for what market segment it is meaningful to.

  • Cookie cutter reports follow the same prescriptive outline - I can spot one of those a mile off. They are heavy on historical detail, the numbers are dated, and there’s nothing future-oriented. There’s little value in these often expensive market research reports IMHO. Foresight is always going to be better than hindsight to get insight and to protect market share. The ROI of you (or me!) spending time doing a recent news search and see what’s going on now is a much better option.

How To Find Out Who My Competitors Are

Sometimes I don’t know whom the main competitors are when researching an unfamiliar market. First stop to find out is to use Google.

Imagine that my client is Starbucks. I could then search on Google using ‘vs’ or ‘versus’ in keywords. See how a list of competitors appears. This search is also likely to elicit lots of information that has a competitive intelligence slant.

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With competitive research it’s not just the direct competitors that you need to worry about, it’s the disruptors who enter your marketplace with new technology or services that solve your customer’s problems better. That’s when a comprehensive search of the market using free and paywall resources comes into play. The crucial thing here is to understand what market is in terms of the problem that your buyer wants to be solved, not just the product or service that you are selling.

The Best Podcasts for Market Researchers

Listening to market research podcasts can be a great way of keeping up-to-speed with what's happening in the industry while you make your way home in the traffic. Here's one that I like for understanding how social marketing is changing the way we shop, which is vital for marketers to know It’s cutting-edge stuff, so have a listen. Another great one is This podcast tells how you can improve your data visualisation efforts so that your market research insights are clear and actionable to your clients.

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What Trends will Affect Consumers in 2018?


It’s that time of year when we look at consumer preference trends in 2017 and forecast what 2018 might be like. If you want some futuristic inspiration or need to get up-to-speed quick smart with what’s changing, try these reports on trends…

Looks like we're on the cusp of massive change! Email me ( if you need help keeping up with it all. We specialise in getting rid of the all the noise, so you only get the good, life-changing insight.


International Polls and Surveys

With country or regional-specific sites, You.Gov has self-selecting polls on a variety of topics from how many of us fear robots taking our jobs to how many of us eat dinner in front of the TV each night. The results aren't scientific, but the information can present some really nice jumping-off points for doing more rigorous research. Here's a diagram below featuring the countries in the APAC region which feature in the surveys.

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How Venture Capitalists Make Decisions on what to Invest in

By the very nature of what they do, venture capitalists have a need for detailed research on companies and markets. My new favourite daily newsletter is by CB Insights ( which provides up-to-date analysis on where the money is going. We are living in an era of disruption with massive change occurring in sectors such as health, finance, retail and manufacturing to name a few. CB Insights have their finger firmly on the pulse, with on-point analysis, so that you can keep up. Some info is behind a paywall, but the daily newsletter is free and written in a very entertaining way. Subscribe now!

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Market Research For Exporters

The New Zealand Story ( was created with extensive input from over 200 leaders from the primary sector, manufacturing, Māori, export industry, education and wider government services to promote New Zealand. Lots of good on-the-ground research here. One report about exporting to Japan reminds Kiwi's to highlight how we excel by being creative and ingenious in primary markets rather than telling them how good we are at supplying agricultural products.

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Consumer Preference Market Research Resource

The old adage that if you build it, they will come is an adage that as marketer researchers we simply don’t use. Identifying a buyers' need or pain point first is crucial and then build your product or service around that by understanding what is happening in the marketplace. One of the best tools I’ve found to identify rising trends and consumer digital behaviours is the Think with Google collections of studies, analysis and reports. For example, this month I found data from Google as to what Gen Xers are watching on YouTube (turns out it is nostalgia related videos and commercials); and, the declining trends in skincare (skin bleaching, seaweed lotion and coconut oil body wraps) are all losing popularity!


New Zealand Food and Beverage Market Research

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New Zealand is well known for the quality of the food it produces.

Surveys show that around 70% have a clear preference to buy food such as vegetables, meat, fruit and milk which are produced in New Zealand. Around 14% of Kiwis buy New Zealand food products because they are proud of what their compatriots have gown, but 59% strongly or somewhat agree that they buy local brands because they want to support NZ business. Sounds like identifying NZ made products is an important branding tool that food producers need to include on their packaging to attract consumers.  

Made in...NZ? Preferences for Local and Global Brands

Free Market Research!


Millie is a new market research tool which gives a lot for free. It brings together market research, news, and reports in one place, with the added bonus of a robust search platform which enables you to filter out the info you don't want. When I tested 'Millie' on a search for avocados and the recent price hike, it directed me to a variety of national and international websites explaining the reasons behind the rising cost of this fruit, as well as analysts reports on large scale growers of avocados, and links to further earlier news reports. The result screen is a bit overwhelming to look at to start with, but once you get to grips with it, the information has been nicely curated, and offers text analytics too. One restriction for me was that it only covers eight sectors at the moment, but they are big ones such as food and beverage, health care, energy etc. Millie is a work-in-progress, so this may change, but even as it stands now, it is a pretty good resource for the desk researcher.

How to Use Competitive Analysis To Make Better Decisions

An article in the Harvard Business Review this year explored the idea that companies are spending up large on competitive analysis data and strategies, but they are not being used at the level where it’s needed. The advice is often ignored by senior management, and then companies miss out on opportunities to grow their market, or fail to notice disruptive technology taking business away from them. How can you ensure sure that managers are actually using the competitive information their analysts are producing? One way is to audit decisions made by managers. This is essentially finding out what information they used to make a decision, and why this decision is valid when surrounded by all the other noise swirling around. In turn, managers become better decision makers - they have to use competitive intelligence to plot and defend or champion what happens next. They also get a better sense of what is happening in their market, and the organisation gets ROI from its investment in market research. A win-win for everyone.



The benefits of a quick market scan

I've just completed a really interesting job for a team of New Zealanders who have thought up a great idea for a device and app. The thing was, they needed a quick market scan done by someone who doesn't have that emotional link to whether the idea is worth pursuing. Budget and time frames were tight too.

Here's what I found out:

  • My clients need to narrow down who their target user is, as the type of device and app is determined by developmental needs, so targetted functionality is key. It also needs to survive the "coolness" test for the users and purchasers.

  • The overseas market leader is taking steps to dictate what the materials and safety standards of these devices is going to be. This is a really smart move by this competitor - they are helping decide and drive this important concern of purchasers, plus set the standard. This gives them a lead time over others in the market, as well as positioning them as the device of choice.

  • Crowdfunding for these devices is the primary source of money for product development and marketing overseas, with the funds raised ranging from US$300,000 to US$1.2 million. This gives my clients an indication of what is likely to be needed to get their product off the ground here.

  • The main competitors are selling the products themselves via their engaging and slick websites, which use entertaining videos to sell. Social media marketing via word of mouth recommendations is absolutely critical for these potential purchasers. My client needs to understand how this type of marketing will need to be employed if they go to market.

  • The initial shipments of competitor products have sold out, and the companies concerned are taking names for a waiting list for new shipments. This indicates that there is demand for this product and the type of functionality it offers, for a premium price.

This information is the reality that my clients now need to get their head around before they spend any more money and time. Better to know now, rather than later.

How to use Academic Research for Market Intelligence

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Papers published in academic journals or theses give vigor and breadth to market validation. They do this by providing insight into new ideas, products or markets, particularly if it’s a narrow or obscure field of research or a cutting edge development.

Academic articles also can highlight who are the KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) on a topic. This is useful because it can identify centres of excellence or companies that are researching in that space. Conference presentations are also often covered, which help identify who else is researching your field of interest, what their findings are, what gaps in the research there are, and what their next research strands night be.

Good quality information is primarily available in English language journals, but many foreign language journals can carry vital information not found elsewhere. Crucially, they give insight into local issues, written by local researchers. These articles often have an English abstract, which can be useful. Sometimes it’s helpful to email the authors of these papers to see if they speak English, and are able to supply perhaps a presentation in English, which covers the material you need.

There’s a range of free sources of full-text articles or you can search for fee-based articles published in journals on a multitude of subjects. The most reputable journals will usually charge around $40-$50 each for an article. Here’s some of my favourite haunts:

NZResearch - New Zealand’s largest collection of theses. Here you will find research from students and staff, with most providing the full-text for free.

Google Scholar - A mixture of fee-based and free articles, plus patents and case law.

Microsoft Academic Research - This database can be searched in a variety of ways from discipline, organisation, or conference to name a few. Once you’ve found a citation of interest, you can see where the research has been cited by other researchers, all on one page.

One paper will often lead you onto another piece of relevant research, so remember to keep track of where you’ve been to avoid wasting time later, when you are trying to track down where you read something vital.

Market Validation Part 5: Putting it all together

In this final episode of my DIY market validation series, I’d like to talk about how to pull all the information you have collected together.

First, read through it all, and then take notes from what you have found. I find it helps to arrange it into sections. Depending on what you are researching, these sections might include market statistics, consumer preferences, regulatory, competitor strategies and substitutes, technology etc.

Filter out all the irrelevant or dated info, but be mindful about any vibes about the context in which your product or service operates in. Big picture stuff often dictates individual consumer preferences.

Don’t forget to include visuals. The size of a competitor factory might be 20,000sqm, but a photo of the factory instantly conveys the size, shape, flexibility of operations and type of environment that your competitor has.

Now you can see what market validation info you have.

  • What themes or ideas keep repeating themselves? Draw the dots and see what emerges.

  • Is the information that you have up-to-date and future-oriented?

  • Do you trust what you are reading? Be honest, especially if it goes against assumptions that you’ve made. It could be the difference between success or failure.

  • Does the information you have come from a variety of sources? Be aware of bias.

  • What info gaps do you have? How can you fill them?

The above gives you a taste of how to use information to make a sound decision based on trends, facts, and context. Sometimes numbers won't match up or information won't be conclusive, or you just can't find that magic market size number that you desperately need. If you get stuck, just phone (027 4393795) or email Cathy at, and we'll give you a hand.


How to use Alibaba for Market Research

Alibaba has been in the news a lot lately. It’s founder, Jack Ma, is China’s richest person, has become the first Chinese national to appear on the cover of Forbes magazine, and in 2014, pulled off the biggest IPO the world has ever seen. There are now rumours swirling around that Alibaba will buy eBay.
So what does Alibaba offer to companies looking to do some due diligence on a supplier?  It’s a starting point - nothing more. Even Alibaba admits that 23% of their customers were scammed by a Chinese company. Here’s a few tips to avoid that happening to you.

When using the search box and search filters on Alibaba, you can find out who makes the product you want. Just be careful about those entries that are listed as “Gold suppliers”. These suppliers have been authenticated and verified by Alibaba as legitimate traders, but they have also paid a premium to Alibaba to get this certification. Think of it as a bit like Google Adwords. There’s information to suggest that the checking to get ‘Gold Supplier’ certification may be suspect.

Also check to see whether a particular company’s product offering takes up most of the catalogue on Alibaba. This gives an indication that they understand and specialise in the market, and may have more robust quality standards. No guarantees though.

Another thing to do is to check out their company profile. Here’s you’ll find information on how many quotes they have sent out in the last 30 days, lead times, whether English is spoken, business terms etc.                                                                  

Check out the certification side of things too. You can search for products that have CE standards for example.

When using the search box, change the option from ‘products’ to ‘suppliers’. Here you will see a broad indication of revenue of the supplier, plus their top three markets that they sell to.

Alibaba is a great starting point to locating suppliers in China. You can view a range of products, see certification, find out response rates from a supplier etc. The big caveat with everything is to also get an independent assessment of the supplier. Alibaba have discussion forums where you can look for feedback. However, don’t just trust what is on Alibaba. For starters, consider doing a Google search with the name of the supplier and look for customer feedback or reviews.

Market Validation Part 3: Finding Market Share

Information such as market share or the number of widgets sold can be critical to know when entering a new market.

Although getting hold of good numbers can help you decide what strategy to take, it’s only part of the story. The key is to get numbers that you can rely on plus understand the context around them. A sales increase or decrease can be the result of a competitor moving into the market and launching their products, a factory burning down, which stops a product being made, or tough economic times. You can’t understand a market by numbers alone.

So now that I’ve made that point, statistics are often the first numbers you need for DIY market research. The University of Auckland hosts the OFFStats website. It’s easy to search for the statistical information you need, with links to great stats websites from all over the world. Here you can find out how many motor vehicles there are in Italy to which country makes the best use of information and communication technologies.

Market research reports contain great data and context on the size of a market, however they can often be very expensive. If you have spent thousands of dollars developing your product, it can be well worth the investment to get some reassurance and extra information that these reports can give.

There are ways of getting market data for free or little cost. Market research reports are often released with a free abstract that often has some great background data. A simple Google search can locate these.

Slideshare is a collection of presentations that have often been prepared by industry experts. These are free to download and contain data trends on markets. A similar website is Scribd.

We also have NZ Trade and Industry’s market research. It has loads of free research on a variety of export markets. Try them out now!

Market Validation Part 2: Tips on how to Use Google for Market Validation

Naturally when you invent a new product or service, you want to know if anyone else has had the same great idea that you have. Maybe you’d like to find out how big your potential market could be. This is all part of what I talked about in my last article about validating the market.  Your new product or service has to have the potential to make your customer’s life better by solving a problem, plus it has to make you a profit. Remember, if it’s not going to do both of those things, then you need to go back to the drawing board.

Let's look how to use some Google search tools for market validation information. It's not rocket science, and it's easy to do some DIY market validation before you get someone like me involved. 

There’s lots of good, free information that you can find by just using Google. Before you start typing, you need to be thinking of some keywords that will help you find the information that you need. For market validation, this could include phrases or words such as “market size”, “market value”, “market research”, or trends or maybe consumer and preferences. Note the speech marks around the phrases. Google now knows to put those two words next to each other as a phrase.

Another trick I use all the time is the filetype:???? search. If I wanted to find out how many widgets were sold in Vietnam, I could start by typing in the search box: widgets sales vietnam and filetype:pptx into Google. This will look for Powerpoint presentations with those words in them, which often have some great insights on how a widget is selling, or who is buying it. The same works with other types of documents such as pdf, docx, xls etc.

Google News is great for finding out who is also producing widgets in the market, and can give you useful information on their sales, key people, industry trends, and what the future might hold. Use other people’s experiences - good and bad, to help you fine tune your business and your product or service. Use Google’s filter tools for the most recent information to get exactly what you need.

Google Patent is collection of patent documents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. By typing in keywords about your product, you'll get a list of patents which will give you diagrams of the different types of widgets, plus a description of how they work, and who is responsible for the patent - very useful to get a feel for what is out there! The big disclaimer here is that although Google Patents is a useful tool, it won’t replace the capabilities of a patent expert, and it only has USA patents.

One final tip: don’t rely on Google as the only browser to search with. Try Bing or even DuckDuckGo that won’t keep records of what you search for.

In the next article, I’m going to highlight how you can find statistics on the web. Numbers form the base of any good market validation plan, so it’s very important to find the most reliable data.

Market Validation Part 1: Discovering Customer Preferences

Market Validation Part 1: Discovering Customer Preferences

When you have a new product or service to sell, it can be very easy to assume that it will be welcomed into the market, and make lots of money. However, sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge that our assumptions and perceptions might not reflect reality. Market validation is about determining whether your new product or service will solve a problem better than anyone else. This is how you will make money. It’s as simple as that.

So, how do you find out whether your new product or service will sink or swim?

Read More

Marketing Tips when Selling to Chinese Consumers

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China Skinny always have their fingers on the Chinese consumer's pulse. In one their recent newsletters, they highlighted 5 things to remember about the Chinese marketplace.

  1. Find out where Chinese consumers shop, why they do so, and what strategies have other businesses used that have either worked or failed. Consumer preferences vary widely and are becoming more sophisticated. Also be aware that the Chinese government wants to build a stable internal economy, so will be encouraging the rise of domestic brands and protection of their IP.

  2. Be bold with marketing - on and offline.

  3. Obviously look at the Tier 1 and 2 cities, but don't forget about the potential of smaller cities. The most landlocked province in China was the number one seller of bikinis online per capita!

  4. Have a flexible, long-term strategy in China. Keep informed about what is going on and adapt quickly.

  5. Be true to your product and brand. Understand your market, the available opportunities, and how your products or services best fit into that market.