Talk to any entrepreneur who has tried to introduce a new product or venture into a new market and you will find a common thread emerges about getting the picture of the market wrong from the outside. It’s expected you can’t exactly know a market until there’s money involved just like you can’t know how a customer feels about your product until they have to hand over money for it. However, there is a bigger mistake that threatens small business owners and startups and that is overestimating the market. Good market research can help you avoid this problem.

Market research

Market research is a very important part of business strategy. This is concerned with finding out as much as you can about the market, the behaviour of customers and other factors in the market. Market research will help you understand the market and guide your strategy and operations to take advantage of market conditions. Two good and closely related examples of using market research are the iPhone SE launched recently by Apple and Econet’s smart kambudzi phone. Both companies want to boost their services revenue so they both decided to launch a cheaper access point for their services. Neither are of course in new services. We will sort that out in a bit

New product

A new product is defined as being a new entry, something the likes of which has not been seen ina market before. Say you launch a service that automatically orders groceries for people, that’s a new product. These are uncharted waters with nothing similar to draw from. You can only draw from similar products but may not be able to get an exact read on the markets.

New market

New market refers to your status in the market and not the market itself. If you are entering the market with an existing product such as fresh vegetable delivery service this is you. In this sort of market, you have the advantage of seeing customer behaviour in the most important terms, financially.

What to look for

Regardless of the status of your product or you being new in the market there are things you can enquire about the market for your product to help guide you. These things are not essential but their presence, degree and extent will inform you of the prospects of your business.


Of course, you want to be in a big market. The bigger the market the bigger the opportunity so it makes sense to chase bigger markets. There is nothing wrong with chasing or focusing on small markets. Assuming you have a huge or infinite market only to find you have a limited one is not where you want to be.


It’s not just about market size but also how regularly the market needs your product. This is not a disqualifier of any sort but the more frequently your product is needed the better. Have you noticed how apps have moved from free, to a lifetime membership to a monthly subscription? Music and Movies are also shifting from outright lifetime purchases to streaming. You want something people will use and hence pay for, more often.


Dealing with the Zimbabwean economy you will very quickly grasp how important intensity is. How many times have you left a product at the till or forgone a shopping trip altogether after seeing the prices or the rate? Yet you will happily pay the piper when it’s time to reload your data bundle. That’s intensity in a nutshell. How badly does the market need your solution? If you’re new in the market you can always ask how they are currently solving the problem. If they are spending extra money on it you are onto something.


The growth we are looking at here is sales growth and there are two types of growth you want to see in a market. Individual customer sales value growth, where a satisfied customer buys more of the product, is called back end growth. Don’t ask me where the term comes from. You also want a market that will grow in terms of the number of customers. If you can identify a market that grows in both you have a winner.

Sometimes businesses fail because the market isn’t ready or they are not able to take advantage yet. Researching markets appropriately is a good first step in the right direction.