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.

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 4: Keeping up with the News


Market research reports are great to get a feel of a market, but the information can become dated very quickly. A change of government, a competitor goes broke, or new technology can disrupt a market quickly and change consumer preferences. You need to use other information sources to validate what is going on now, and what it might be like in the future. Otherwise, you could be basing decisions on information that is out of date.

So... where do you go to supplement and validate market research info?

  • Google News is the first obvious place to start. You can search for the keywords pertaining to your industry and set up alerts so that you can monitor the market in the future.

  • News agencies like Reuters and Bloomberg all have websites and Twitter feeds which can help you. Other agencies which offer some free info on global trends include Time and Forbes.

  • Twitter (by searching hashtags) and Facebook pages also offer news updates.

  • Don’t forget about Idealog as well as Stuff and NZ Herald websites.

  • LinkedIn Groups are also a great way to keep up with play. These industry forums are a great place to ask questions about a market. Of course, you need to balance this up with the knowledge that everyone on the forum may have an inkling that you are interested in this specific market, but you can get valuable information and advice.

The info sources above are just a taste of where you can look to check that the information you have is up-to-date. Don't forget to contact any subject matter experts that you might find mentioned in news reports or on Linked In. Most people are only too happy to present their opinions or give advice, providing you are upfront and honest about what you want to use the information for. Competitor websites that have media releases on them are also useful, plus monitoring job websites like Seek over a period of time can give an indication about what new skill-sets are needed to support your competitors' strategy.

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?

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