I get it. You had three hours of sleep because you’re working long hours and couch-surfing until you can pay yourself a salary. You’re looking for a line of credit to cover the first payment to your new co-packer. Investors are griping about your burn rate. So why would you spend any of your company’s limited funds on research?
Here’s the irony: The early stages of a new plant-based or cell-based business are the most critical time to conduct research. This is when you set the direction for your company, hopefully using solid evidence to guide your important decisions. And once you’re established, research will help you sustain that growth and gain market share.
Whatever stage your company is at, research plays (or should play) an essential supporting role. Your team’s inherent creativity and flair for innovation may be the driving forces, but research helps turn those ideas into actionable, data-driven plans. This is why the most successful companies spend billions on consumer and market research.
Research is useful for more specific reasons, too. For many companies, especially startups, the founders have motivations that may not be shared by the ideal customer. Research helps you step outside of your own bubble and get feedback from those you’re trying to serve, which is essential to guide your decisions. And having hard data is always helpful to convince your manager to go in a new direction.
Here are five ways your company can use research to cultivate success:
- Product Innovation: What kinds of products do tomorrow’s meat and dairy alternative customers want? Try asking them! Use research to learn the macro trends for your product or service category and then dive deeper to understand the consumer motivations and habits that drive their purchases. These insights will give your company the confidence it needs to move forward with your new innovation.
- Packaging Design: Packaging design is as much art as science, but you can use research to help determine which design is likely to convert the most shoppers into customers. What images and terms lead more people to try your product? What benefits should you highlight and how descriptive do you need to be? Answers to these questions can mean the difference between product success and failure.
- Branding & Marketing: Consumer research is the cornerstone of branding and marketing. To effectively convey your brand and market your product, you need to know what messages work with what types of people. Consumer segmentation studies, for example, are incredibly useful for helping businesses understand when and how to best market their brand or product — and to whom.
- Customer Retention: Getting new customers is often the focus, but retaining customers is just as important for long-term success. Here again, research plays a critical role. If your retention is lower than expected, you need research with past and current customers to understand why. Interviews with people who buy your product once and don’t return, for instance, can yield valuable insights.
- Competitive Insight: Sure, we’re all working together toward the same thing: a more sustainable, healthy, and ethical food supply. But the competition is heating up! Research helps you know what people like (or not) about competing brands and products. Understanding the awareness, perception, and usage of your product versus others can uncover key attributes and competitive advantages.
Of course, not every business decision requires research. But important decisions should be driven by data, not just hunches. Choosing which product category to focus on next or which package design to use, for example, are questions that warrant investing in research. Whether that investment is $500 or $50,000 depends on your level of uncertainty about the decision and whether or not it has a long-term or short-term impact.
Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate these waters alone. Get in touch with Cultivate Insights for a free consultation to see if we can help. We’ll help you understand what research methods might work best and whether or not they fit into your budget. Even if you aren’t actually couch-surfing, you may be watching every penny. But it pays to start thinking about research now and make sure it’s part of your future plans.
Happy researching! We look forward to supporting you.