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The value of market research for SaaS startups

Vikrant Duggal
Vikrant Duggal
• 3 min read

I've written about how to learn about your customer's needs and build what they want on this blog in the past. Since January I've spoken to more early stage tech founders than I have in the last 12 months combined. The first question whether they've recently raised capital or not is: "What do I do now?"

Let's assume you've just raised your first round, or you have personal capital to deploy to grow your startup. The first thing you want do is survey your potential customers. You may claim you've already done it, but I would challenge you to do it again, or do more.

You are currently embarking on a constant state of learning and you want to be relentless about being customer-centric. Akio Morita, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos were all maniac about being customer-centric. So you'll be in great company. It starts with discovery around what you're customer needs. You're doing this for three reasons:

  1. You want to know what the core Job To Be Done is and any important, related jobs are.
  2. You want to know how saturated the market is with the type of solution you're building.
  3. You want to get signal around how best to price your offering.

Founders who have heeded my advice recently shared why my pushing them on this was valuable. Here are four things I heard in the last couple weeks:

It helped us understand what to say

Had we gone to market without doing the market research in this formal way we would have likely used language that would have alienated who we were selling to. We also would have missed out the key insight that really matter to people who said our vision was a must have for them. As we begin to test our marketing and sales messaging and edit our copy inside the product we are already finding areas to improve so that we can avoid immediate land mines. I'm glad we know this now. There's enough hard stuff to do running a startup. I feel like I got a cheat code on this one.

It helped us realize that our product development process was not going to work

(I've written about how product market fit can go wrong in the past on this blog.)

In the past it might have been one of us [co-founders] deciding what to build, or we would have gone with whatever people said the most. By spending time in a variety of conversations we realized we don't actually have a great product development process and we need to spend time together as cofounders really thinking about how we want to build product. We need something that will work now, but also that can scale with us as we continue to build the team and develop our product roadmap.

First, we want clarity that what we are building aligns with our vision. Second, we want to build something that will be utilized to help our customers. This was a big ah-hah and we're glad we realized it now.

It really helped us align our team

We gave all of the data and insights from our market research to everyone on the team and we now include it in our onboarding of new employees. We [co-founders] are close to the customer but engineers and others on our team are not as close. This gives them the missing pieces and helps them really see the value of the work they are doing and how it connects to those people we desire to help. This was a big win for us!

I love that new employees will also have insights into the market with quote, videos, and a breakdown of the opportunity within days of onboarding. And it will become a reference guide for them on a daily, or weekly basis.

It made our board meetings more productive

Armed with the research it really made the board meetings more productive. The meetings have gone from us talking at our board, or our board talking at us to a more collaborative approach and discussion. We are sharing our learnings and board members are taking what they see and really helping us think through developing product market fit and go to market fit.

One of the benefits of writing on this blog is that I can share my learning in real time. This week has been filled with new learnings and I've created a queue of essays that I'll be writing about and sharing.