Starting a company: Know your market (part 1)

The fact that your friends like your work doesn't mean everyone else will buy your product - doing a market research first might not be a bad idea.

Just because you’ve seen farmers everywhere in the world sell their products doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to achieve the same. Before you decide to dedicate your time, hard work, and finances into building a business, it is strongly advised to begin with a simple market research. The value of that is not only in confirming or denying your assumption, it will help you to deepen your vision of important business points, and possibly even point out some essential overlooked aspects that you haven’t even considered.

There are various ways how to carry out such research, and obviously the more data you manage to collect, the better your starting situation will be. In order to achieve that, it is ideal to combine a number of them, hence in this article, I will guide you through my process and in the end, you should be able to prepare your own approach.

Market survey

When starting something, most people think their idea is brilliant and others will use your product or service for sure. They will get a confirmation from their family and friends, everything seems exciting. However, the reality is uncompromising and if you don’t want to waste any of your resources, put them into a market research first.

As my plan is to start a B2B microgreens production in my city, in order to get as much data about customers and market as possible, I chose to begin with an email market survey. Now, while you can guess that the response rate is not probably too high, there is more to why I went with this method. One large reason was to actually get a significantly better picture of the gastronomical situation in the city. To get to know what kinds of restaurants there are, what cuisines there are, where are many and where only some. I found a localized online tool, that puts all the restaurants on a map together with links to their websites, and this way I was able to navigate through the whole city and collect email addresses for my potential clients. I will admit that this is quite time-consuming, but in the end well worth the gained knowledge.

With all the collected emails, I was then ready to move to the survey form creation. For the first timers as me, it can be a quite challenging task, since you want to get the most out of it, but also need to keep it simple for the respondent. It is a perfect opportunity to get essential info on how all the things work. Go back to your Lean Canvas and see what you need to know in order to execute it. Again, for example, I asked about the respondents’ knowledge of microgreens, their values in a process of choosing ingredients, and about possibilities of their own production. You can ask both open and closed questions, depending on what insights you are trying to get. Keep a balance between a length and an info amount.

A preview of my survey form logic (untranslated)

Unfortunately, your work with the form doesn’t end there. You need to be 100% sure, that it makes sense to every single person, and that is a point where other people step in. Send the survey to your family, friends and people who might not even know what you are up to. Be sure to get a feedback and reflect it in modifications, verify that you are receiving the answer you would expect from your questions.

Another crucial part of the email survey is, of course, the email itself. It probably makes sense that business owners or chefs are very busy people and they don’t have time to read and respond to every single email, especially if you are a stranger asking for their time. Therefore, put some thoughts into the subject of the email and also use a representative email address, do not try to clickbait though. Make your intentions clear in the body section. You should introduce yourself, tell what are you doing and what is your goal and there please them for 5 minutes of their time. Don’t forget to offer something in return, for example sharing the total results of the survey with them. Again, keep it informative while being short and simple.

Naturally, the email isn’t the only option and depending on your situation, a live conversation can be very beneficial as well. Actually, you will be probably starting contracts like that anyway, so no reason to stay away from it. Nonetheless, the basics of the questioning are the same. Rather than going to every restaurant and trying your luck with talking to chefs, you might have a better shot going to some local food markets, expos and similar events. Usually, people there are more open to having some influential dialogs and are happy to talk to you about their business and products.