SAI Contributor Hank Williams is a New York-based entrepreneur. He recently launched a new blog: Why Does Everything Suck? Exploring the tech marketplace from 10,000 feet.
It was a decent interview. But the host, Courtney Nichols, asked one question that troubled me. She wanted to know what sort of market research the company had done. My question: What worthwhile Web service does market research?
In the Web world, the devil is in the experience. Who would have thought that Facebook would have been able to come into the market so strongly and to catch up to or beat MySpace? On paper, it wouldn’t have been compelling.
The only thing you could have perhaps determined from market research is whether people want to connect with each other. But the truth is it’s like asking someone if they would prefer Coke with lemon or lime when they haven’t tried either. You can ask people if they like lemon. You can ask if they like lime. You can even ask if they get thirsty. But the only way to know what they really are going to like is to observe their behaviour after trying both.
In this case, I don’t think there is much question that there is a demand or need for tools to help people find dates, partners, or spouses. Will their particular approach work? I don’t know. And I don’t think any market research would tell me in advance.
OK: So how do you determine whether there’s a market for your Web service? I think the best way is to solve a problem you personally relate to. Obviously, you’re also going to need some combination of insight, luck, and execution as well — all things market research won’t help with.
For developers doing consumer web products, doing pre-launch market research surveys — or anything other than basic useage testing — is a silly exercise. And post-launch, real market reaction is the only research you can really trust.
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