Less Market Researching, More Business Building

Whenever I’m leading or coaching new growth business incubation, I do everything I can to (in)validate viability — in most cases, a venture’s ability to make enough money — as quickly as possible.

It’s usually pretty easy to sanity-check if a target customer and Job to Be Done are worth targeting. It’s also usually pretty easy to brainstorm a Job-satisfying solution. It’s usually much harder to figure out if that customer will really pay enough for that solution to make the resulting business worth it.

So, I do whatever I can to “drive” as quickly as possible to answer that “Can we make enough money from this?” make-or-break question. And, for me, that means driving metaphorically across lawns and through backyards trying to get the customer to pay that first dollar as quickly and cheaply as possible. I’m thinking very early in the process about how we might efficiently build a revenue-generating MVP.

If that’s not possible, then I try to figure out another destination that will force the customer to take “skin-in-the-game” action — pay money to be on a product test list or reduce the use of an existing solution, for example. It’s great to hear prospective customers say they love something, but that’s ultimately worthless when they don’t actually buy it or change their behavior to adopt it.

That’s why innovation leaders need to be really careful about doing too much market research. It’s easy to invest a lot of time and money to develop a very thorough analysis of customers and their Jobs to Be Done. But when you do that, you generally end up with a lot of nice slides and not much business-building progress.

Business building means doing just enough research to confirm that the customer and Job to Be Done are worth targeting, before moving as efficiently as possible to brainstorm, prototype, and test a solution. The moment your solution seems to resonate, it’s time to surround that solution with some revenue model options — subscription, one-time fee, say — and see how the customer reacts when asked to pay.

If the customer is still interested, it’s time to cross the final chasm by figuring out how to actually get paid for the solution or how to confirm that commitment to behavior change. Doubt should immediately creep in if you fall short. A lot of new growth business incubation efforts hit a “viability” brick wall at this point. It’s far better for everyone involved to confirm as efficiently as possible — with as few market research slides as possible — that the wall exists or that the path is clear.