1/12/14

Market Research for the Entrepreneur

Primary and Secondary market research are the two basic types of market research.  Secondary market research is available, often at little to no cost through Trade Associations, Public and Government resources.  This type of research is often performed first because it gives you a general sense of viability and feasibility within a particular market sector or geographic location.  Detailed census data, for instance, can tell you about the consumer's attitude and tendencies. Primary market research's purpose is to provide specific feedback on consumer interest in an offering.  It is important to be careful to use a method that is appropriate for your target market. As mentioned by Karen Plesner in Part II of her video, using online surveys are only useful if people are willing or able to fill out a survey.

It is often difficult to determine how valuable a particular research activity will be to your bottom line.  However, it is often the assumption that market research is worth its weight in Gold.  Most will determine a marketing budget, then spend as smartly as possible, creating a diversified plan that addresses the highest priority marketing activities first. As a start-up, it is a good idea for the entrepreneur to start by focusing on secondary market research in order to determine market saturation and identify competitors.  This research, in particular, should help to determine your initial offering, to include the four P's: Product, Price, Promotion & Place. If these estimates warrant further research, an entrepreneur should follow up with primary research activities in order to solidify these assumptions. Primary research activities should start before launch and continue as part of their iterative innovations in order to gain momentum and become sustainable in the chosen market sector.  The entrepreneur should think of secondary research as a way to discover and verify which target market with which you need to focus your primary research activities.

Market research is often perceived too expensive or difficult for the entrepreneur to perform on their own.  Due to this, there is a market for Market Research!  If you are fortunate enough to have venture capital before research activities are performed, you could subscribe or contract with a market research firm.  However, keep in mind, there are many free resources available to the entrepreneur.  There is no set dollar amount that represents a successful marketing strategy.  A start-up should be prepared to invest most, if not all of its available funds, after expenses, into market research activities during the initial phases. Every minute the entrepreneur uses on performing their own research also increases the company’s knowledge, which will tie directly into the attractiveness of the start-up to potential investors and clients.

Ultimately, the entrepreneur should perform marketing research prior to any direct advertising.  It is not only a waste of resources, but also very frustrating when you find out that your advertising efforts have fallen on deaf ears.

The above excerpt was an initial response to Week 1's Discussion Question in the Market Research for Entrepreneurs course at Full Sail University by Shannon "Norah" Medlin.

1/10/14

Norah's 2¢: 5 Reasons Why Receiving Is Harder Than Giving

Thank you for this soothing camaraderie.  Coming from an abusive childhood, I  have developed a deep disdain for narcissistic behavior.  So much, that at times, I have to fight hard against the association of guilt when receiving a gift.  Last year, I quit my Corporate job to

1/7/14

Norah's Notebook: Why Innovation does not belong in Corporate America

Since leaving the corporate grind last year (haha! I can say that now!) and restarting my Software Development firm, tekAura, I have come across many articles in the start-up community that keep on selling our secrets upstream.  The only saving grace is that I don't believe the corporate goons are capable of comprehending the underlying message. Anyone that has been a part of a corporate innovation initiative or two, or three hundred... you know what I mean!  It takes a unique kind of person to recognize the fallacy in these efforts.  After all the paper prizes and shiny internal disposable marketing packages, some of start wonder.... where is the change they keep talking about?  And one day, you stop, take a moment to look around and find yourself in a sea of drones, a sea of vacant button pushers.  Then you realize why everyone thinks you are nuts!  You make them look bad, you make them work harder.  Those people don't want to help, they don't believe they matter.  Why?  Because you have proven to them time and again they are worth less than the dirt from the smoking corner out in the parking lot.  So, no wonder you can't innovate.  You don't listen, you don't include, you don't care.  Whether because passion and drive is beaten out of you over the first 5 years of dedicated service or because you have given in to the executive bottom line requirements, management continues to struggle to translate your hidden agenda in actionable results on the cutting floor.  For this and many other reasons I will likely detail for the rest of my life, I was inspired to write the following comment on an article titled, Stop Stifling Entrepreneurs in Your Company:

Corporate environments have never and will never be truly interested in innovation.  While some, like Google and Pixar may carry the intention forward, there will always come a point, due to it's sheer mass, when the demands of production quantity exceeds quality.  If left to their own devices, Executives are much more interested in acquiring Entrepreneurship capital after most of the Research & Development activities have been completed, which is the most expensive part of any project.  They would much rather purchase a product during its maintenance phase and ride it until it retires, maintaining warranty contracts and neatly billable work hours.  Entrepreneurship is innately risky, most do not have the guts for it.  Even those of us that do are constantly seeking a formula for ensuring success.  It is this unique individual, this brave soul, who should and does rightly serve society well by being ahead of the curve and willing to release a project at its peak potential.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it...   More and more Entrepreneurs are leaving the Corporate facade for rough waters and choosing not to create a rapid business development portfolio that only adds superfluous layers to the start-up soup, but rather, build a small B2B firm.  These creative houses incorporate social responsibility into every project and drive true innovation within the economy.  The most sustainable ones stay small and flexible.

Year in Review & Future Ambitions

Every year, about this time, most humans on this earth participate in some form of the New Years Resolution. This peculiar ritual was practiced the ancient Babylonians, Romans and continues to be deeply entrenched in tradition for Christians, Jews and Catholics. Being born and raised, but, ironically, never baptised, by a strange mix of Christian denominations, I was free to extend my religious studies into many others.  And have since developed my personal belief system, which includes a form of this practice.

As a natural Engineer and Project Manager, I tend to contemplate a sort of casual postmortem.  Instead of simple list of things that I wish I would have done better, I tend to perform a more detailed analysis with several areas of incremental improvement.  Ironically, seldom do I write it down this internalization.  However, this year has been especially tumultuous and I find it helpful, if not necessary to post it here.

The year began halfway through our first year's lease at our current residence at Missions Springs Apartments in Tempe, AZ.  Working at University of Phoenix as a Technical Support Analyst for 2 1/2 years, I was growing cynical and tired of the dead end corporate world.  I had come to realize that no matter what feat of intellectual prowess or participation, I was left abandoned at the bottom of IT pit. The depth of despair plummeted as the middle of the year approached and I reached a certain logic that the corporate world was no longer the adventure that I had once hoped.

In June, my frustrations with destructive micro management had reached a peak.  With a prospective freelance contract on the horizon, I jumped ship and cashed in on my savings.  This extreme disgust propelled me to leave the corporate life behind permanently.  In preparation for this realized independence, I enrolled in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Masters of Arts Degree at Full Sail University in September.  The program is extremely accelerated.  Each to be completed in only four weeks.  This week, I started my fourth course, Market Research for Entrepreneurs.  A more lengthy review of the program will be sure to follow.  However, for now, suffice it to say that quality education is determined by the student, not the faculty.

I ended up taking leave from the program for the month of December in order to focus on some contractual responsibilities, family and come up for air before plunging head long again into the chilly rugged rapids of the great river of Business.  Feeling prophetic in the coming of the New Year, I find myself wading in the calm pools between each challenging rapid.  I am reminded of a great movie, The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Those of us in the Molly Brown Fan Club love the rapids, we grunt and scream and cry, we persevere and hunker down and ride out the rough patches, to arrive on top, a hootin' and holler'n.

Ok, ok, enough of that... I think my cowgirl genes are peeking out... :)

Back to the subject at hand.... My plans, you ask?
 My ambitions, you are seeking?  Yes, well....

Besides all the selfish usual wishes and hopes to improve health, find time to play and move into a house (finally!!), in the spirit of Entrepreneurship, I would rather focus on mission and vision.

Without revealing too much of the boring detail, we are getting BIZ-aYY over here!!!  A comprehensive plan is about to launch, my friends.  This is a year of big changes.  Business ideas and plans are coming to fruition.  Our innovation engine is going to be taking a few thousand laps.  We are building revenue streams, creating new channels. Video channels, that is.  And networking, lots and lots of networking.  All of you that have paid attention, that have stuck with us and proven your worth.  We are soon to call upon your talents!  Lets build something significant, something to be proud of, something.... well, that just doesn't suck!