PLH 70 | Market Research

If you don’t understand who’s buying your product, how can you make a product for them? That’s what research is in a nutshell, but secondary research is understanding what exists out there. Secondary research is just information in the marketplace that’s already out there. Some of the biggest retailers and brands out there are spending millions of dollars a year on research and secondary research. Market research expert Laura Hazzard recommends doing secondary research at all phases of your product launching because research affects the features and the usability of your product, the colors, the styles, the packaging, and also the marketing. But how you talk and what you say in your advertisements, you can learn in secondary research. Laura talks about some of the huge missteps that she’s seeing a lot of retailers do.

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Welcome back to another Office Hours. This one is with Laura Hazzard, our consumer market research expert on all things quantitative and qualitative market research.

This is Laura Hazzard, your resident market research expert. I’m so excited to be chatting with you about secondary research. It sounds very nerdy and not fun but it is one of the most critical steps no matter where you’re at in your product launch phase. If you’re just creating prototypes or if you’re out in the market, it’s important to take a step back, understand, and make sure you really have a pulse on what’s happening out there. First things first, what is secondary research?

I know I’ve mentioned this very briefly in the past but secondary research is just information in the marketplace that’s already out there. It is a research that someone else paid for, someone else spent the time doing, and all you’re doing is summarizing the relevant information for you and your product. The great thing is a lot of it is free. It just takes time and your time has value, but you can do a lot of this from home and I’m going to walk you through all the different phases. It’s important to take a step back and to look at the marketplace to know who your competitors are, what brands are important, and also understand who your potential customer is. If you don’t understand who’s buying your product, how can you make a product for them? That’s what research is in a nutshell, but the secondary research is understanding what exists out there.

You want to be able to have an edge over your competition as well. If you spend the time and energy doing secondary research, you can know more than the big brands. Some of the biggest retailers and brands out there are spending millions of dollars a year on research. It’s important and they do a ton of secondary research as well, so this can definitely have an edge over the competition. You can do secondary research and I recommend doing secondary research at all phases of your product launching. It affects the features and the usability of your product, the colors, the styles, the packaging, and also the marketing. How you talk and what you say in your advertisements, you can learn in secondary research. I see a lot of people very quickly jumping over these things I’m going to talk about and it’s important to take the time.

Define Your Marketplace

It’s a huge misstep that I’m seeing. A lot of times inventors I meet feel like they’re already experts. They know their products, they know their market place but I always challenge them to put their money where their mouth is. Write it down for me, tell me a story about your customer and the market. A lot of times they stumble because they don’t know who the key players are and what’s important. We’re going to talk about all that details. The point being is it’s extremely important to take a step back. Number one, define your marketplace. Even if you don’t know what’s out there or who your target buyer is going to be, write it down because then we can test it. We can know if you’re right or wrong. What I mean by defining, open up a Google doc or whatever, write down who are your main competitors, make a list.

This is going to be a task of list making and I promise you it’s going to be worth it. Make a list of all your competitors, all the retailers that you could sell your product to. Write down everything you know, what prices you think people are paying, and also your target market. I want you to create a paragraph of who your optimal buyer is. Even if you’re in the marketplace, let’s do this task because you might find that you might be a little off. For this Office Hours, I’m going to be talking about makeup just because it’s something that lots of people understand, skincare, all of the bath and beauty stuff, just for some context.

Don’t just follow brands, but also follow retailers. Share on X

For example, if I created a new makeup product, maybe my optimal customer is an older mom who maybe has several teenage kids who’s working, who lives in the city. What she’s missing is something that’s really easy on her face. It doesn’t look like too much, but covers some wrinkles or blemishes, and she can put it on really quickly like one and done. “It’s on and I’m done, five minutes.” Maybe that’s who your consumer is. That brings you to life. I bet you all right now reading have a picture or maybe you know someone who fits this. That puts everything into context. If you’re struggling with this exercise or your brand list or compare lists, things like that, talk to the experts. There is a wealth of knowledge and the people in this group know about all categories. Feel free to send them a note and be like, “Here’s what I’m thinking this product is going to be sold to. I would just love your expertise on it, if I’m missing something.”

Start Reading

You’ve written all of it down. Now we’re going to start to immerse ourselves. We’ve got the internet, let’s start reading. I know you’re busy, but you need to know what’s going on. Many people have already put decks together, PowerPoint, you can find them on the internet. If you go to Google and you search makeup, trend, research, I guarantee you’re going to find some really cool unique articles and reports. Click the little news button on Google and it’ll show you a bunch of interesting things that have been happening recently. With Google specifically, I always recommend creating a Google alert for your product categories.

I wouldn’t do broad. You have to be specific because there are tons of news alerts that are going to come to you. If I’m in makeup, maybe my Google alerts are set to color trends for moms or makeup trends or nontoxic makeup, things that you think are surrounding. It can really narrow you into news articles. The great thing about the Google news alerts is it’ll just feed it to your inbox once a week. It’s your daily download or your weekly download but you need to know what’s happening, what cool things are happening, what’s hitting the news, what’s newsworthy, what’s buzzworthy, all of that you need to know. Once you set your Google app and got some reports going in front room, go on social media. There’s a wealth of knowledge that you just have to condense. Follow on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, all of the key competitors.

Find Them On All Social Media Platforms

Remember you wrote them. Go back to that list and find them on all social media platforms. Sign up for their newsletters. You can organize your email because it will get overwhelming, but it’s important to do the skim and look through what are they pushing, what are they promoting, what are they finding new and different and also how are they talking about the category. Go on social. You need to know and be really ingrained in what your competition’s doing. Do not just follow brands, but also follow retailers. Where do you want to be bid? Do you want to be sold at Sephora? Do you want to be sold at Target? You need to go online and follow the retailers as well. Don’t forget about them and then lastly, a misstep I see oftentimes is not following influencers.

PLH 70 | Market Research

Market Research: The great thing about the Google news alerts is it’ll just feed it to your inbox once a week.

Identify Influencers

Identifying influencers can be difficult for a lot of categories, especially if you’re new to it. You may consider yourself an influencer, which is great. Then you’re poised to create awesome products and new stuff but you have to dig through. You can find influencers by just doing a general search on YouTube. You’re going to find anything about makeup. The people that are really popular doing your makeup tutorials are going to rise to the top. You can also use hashtags on Instagram to find influencers. See what’s getting likes, who’s talking, because these people not only could review your product in the future, they have a pulse on what’s trendy, what’s cool and people are looking to them.

Influencers have been around for several years, but I think more and more, especially in specific categories are becoming the advertisers. It’s constantly changing so you do need to find influencers. As you read through all the different products that they’ve worked on, ask them who is important, who do we need to follow, who are the young and old, not just actors by the way, people out there that are talking and being followed. Getting to know these influencers, interact with them. A lot of influencers, especially on YouTube and Instagram, they interact. They’re very heavily involved, comments, like they’re things, you’re setting up a relationship that you’re going to have them promote your product. You never know. That’s what we can hope for.

Subscribe To Subreddits

Another place you need to do with your online searching is you need to subscribe to Subreddits. A lot of people are of scared of Reddit. You have this idea and when you go to the website it’s boring and it’s all text. That is where consumers are talking in an unfiltered setting, without the influences of social media lots of times. For example, if I’m talking about makeup, you can hit the subscribe button on Reddit and follow all of these communities where they’re talking about makeup and maybe there’s some specific to moms and makeup, or anti-aging, or easy coverage, or affordable. Going in and listening to the consumer just in a passive way will really help you start to understand how they’re talking about your product.

This is all in that secondary research. We’re just learning about it. We’re understanding what people are doing and saying. It’s critical that you know the lingo. How are people talking about your product? You may, from a scientific point of view or an inventor’s point of view know all the acronyms and all of the specific science behind it but if you don’t know how consumers talk about your product, you’re never going to reach them in an advertisement. Another thing you can find in Reddit is people love to complain on social media. You’ll start to understand where the holes are in the marketplace. What’s missing, what do they like, what do they dislike? Where can you outsmart your competition and have an edge because you know them better than anyone else? I really think that small brands and these smaller product launches really know consumer the best.

It's so important to know who's out there and what they're doing. Share on X

You look at some of your biggest brands, who’s going to buy this because they’re out of touch? You do not want to be that person. You cannot be out of touch with your consumer. It takes work, it takes time and it takes maintenance to stay in touch with your consumer. It’s so critical and all of these tools by the way are free so there’s no excuse. It’s just time, if you don’t have time, you got to pay someone to do it because it’s so important to know who’s out there and what they’re doing.

What you’re doing, is you’re creating a database. Open up a Google sheet and just start writing what you did on Facebook, who you’re following, start with anything that sticks out to you, write it down because you’re going to forget it because there’s tons of information, articles you find, reports you want to save for later when you’re on the plane, save all of it. It may be invaluable to you. Once you have finished your passive reading, listening, we need to start being active and getting out there. You need to start your shopping. This takes a ton of time. I’m not saying it’s easy and there are lots of experts in this group, myself included, that can help you with this phase and can give you the specs of everything that’s out there. What we’re doing is we’re doing the mystery shopping. We need to know exactly what is out there, what is on shelf, and what does it cost.

Get Your Feet Wet

I always recommend doing this firsthand, at least getting your feet wet. That target consumer we talked about, maybe she has no time to go shopping, so she’s just going to and Sephora that’s for go-to’s. Look back at that list of retailers and just start checking it off, going there and seeing within your category, maybe you’re creating a lipstick. Go to the lipstick, what’s for sale, what brands are being promoted, what brands are getting the most reviews. You don’t have sales data for Sephora, but you can look at reviews and if one product has three reviews and one has 300, that should tell you something. One has been longer on the market usually and one I think is more successful. Just do your research, look through it.

Go in and see exactly what’s there. Take photos, take screenshots at it. You need to know who you’re up against because your product ultimately will be right next to them on Sephora. Especially if you’re going out to investors, what’s out there? They’re going to ask for the stats, what’s the price, when it goes on promotion, what are we charging? You’re creating a database and not just products and prices, but also colors, textures, patterns, different specs and features, all of that. What does the whole category look like? If you don’t know how to start or you don’t know how to create a database, let’s jump on a call, let’s talk through it. We can work through it together and get you set up for success because going out there and going into a store, walking through the aisles at Target can take time. You have to be laser focused to get all the details and not skip over it.

Pull Information

We have now a whole huge database of research that we just did, which is awesome. Now what? Depending on where you’re at in the product launch phase, you’re going to start to pull information from all of these places. For example, if you are in just prototyping phase, you haven’t really made something yet, or you have a prototype, you can start to finesse it and change maybe features or packaging based on some things you’ve learned. This will help you in doing your own primary research, which we’ll talk to in the future. That’s your online surveys or qualitative research. It just gives you your context and your starting place. When you’re creating a new product, you know how to speak their language already. When we go into a focus group, we can talk to them like we were in it with them.

PLH 70 | Market Research

Market Research: Your online surveys or qualitative research will give you your context and your starting place.

It makes you much more relatable and your results will be much better. Also if you’re a little bit further in, maybe you’ve started selling, you have your website up and whatnot, you’re trying to get distribution or stores. You can check back on that secondary research and maybe figure out what you’re missing or how to talk about an advertisement. What word should I use? You probably shouldn’t use premium lipstick, you want to use something cooler and more relatable. What people are going to look for on shelf or maybe what they’re going to type into the Google search bar. You know that answer now because you know so much about it. You feel like it’s never ending so that’s another question I get a lot is how do I know when I’m done? When can I stop looking?

The answer is I’m sorry, but you can’t, you always have to be an expert or you need someone on your team who has a pulse on what’s going on. The second you lose sight on what your consumer wants, and even if you think they’re never going to change, I guarantee you they will change. I want to share a great example, especially in the makeup category. Obviously we have these huge brands in the makeup category they’ve been selling for years. Your grandma wore Clinique and now you’re putting Clinique foundation. An interesting disturbance that’s happened in the last couple of years is the Rihanna line. She and her team and her experts realized that we were missing colors and missing shades. It’s so basic that you would think, “Of course we need all shades.” I think she’s got 45 shades in her foundation; she has a huge line.

They were like, “The marketplace is not fulfilling this need, we’re going to do it.” She came out with this incredible line of makeup that has all these different shades and colors and it has just exploded. The great thing is it’s a good price point. It’s priced well. That is a great example of if we go back to the Clinique, for example, they’ve been around for how long and how do they not know that they should have all of these colors or at least have a bigger assortment.

You can read through the stories and the conversation around this makeup line and it’s just incredible and you hear about these people saying, “For the past 30 years I’ve been embarrassed. I haven’t found the right thing for me.”It’s emotional and that’s really what you’re looking for. I think when you start to sift through the information you find online and start to really get to know your consumer, you’re going to find where the holes are and where the struggles are and where the complaints. What’s affecting their life, even if it’s something simple, maybe you’re not making something that you don’t think is emotional, but you’re going to have to find the emotion in there somewhere to sell. When you start understanding and having all that background knowledge, there’s going to be a light bulb. That’s essentially what happened with Rihanna’s line. Look at the explosion of makeup that’s happened since then.

The way things are marketed now is changing. Share on X

It has completely changed the industry. The way things are marketed, the types of women we’re seeing in advertisements and the product assortment that is available now is changing. Makeup’s been around forever. Not all of that came from secondary research, but I guarantee you there was a hint of this out there because you talk to any woman they’re going to share with you that these complaints have been around for awhile. Secondary research is really to find the hint. Find the specs and to know what’s happening today and help you hypothesize what will happen in the future. That’s really how you’re going to beat all your competitors. Whenever you’re in the market, and sell the most, and make a splash. There’s a lot more to do beyond just reading some online articles and going some stores, but this is the great, strong foundation that you need to have a successful product.

Continue Doing It

We need to continue doing it every year all the time to continue to sell and to continue to appeal to consumers. You should always come back to that database and refresh it, try new things. Look at new people, adjust your Google alerts to find new information so that you always are ahead of the game. The rest will just lay out your research plan, your online surveys, your focus groups. We’re going to be feeding from this information in every conversation. If you’ve collected all of this in a database, I’d love to look at it with you and provide my thoughts and maybe what you’re missing. The experts in this group know a ton already, it can save you a lot of time. They may even be able to share some industry secrets and some knowledge.

PLH 70 | Market Research

Market Research: Adjust your Google alerts to find new information so that you always are ahead of the game.

For example, I was getting ready to log in and I saw that Tracy had a recent color trend report for the holiday season. What an incredible resource that you have here. Doing color trend analysis can take so much time, energy, and money, and that’s something that’s already here. A lot of the secondary research you’re going to find here, if you can’t find it, talk to me. Let’s find it together because it’s really going to set you up for success.

I blew through that quickly. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out and I’m excited to do this with you. If it’s a category that I haven’t worked in, I’m excited to learn with you. From here, we’ll be moving into the primary research. That’s what you’d have to look forward to coming up. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it and I’m so excited to hear from you and continue on this journey. Take care.

Tune in to Laura Hazzard next Office Hours. Connect with and find out more about Laura Hazzard in our Experts Directory.

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