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Drilling Down: Marketing in the Modern Landscape
Jim Beach loves to talk shop. And when the conversation turns to entrepreneurship and market research and why the dialog with your customers must constantly stay open, Beach relishes at the chance to discuss the art of market research – an exercise he admittedly says is a never-ending endeavor. This is where Beach excels. At age 25, he started the American Computer Experience and grew the company with no capital infusion to $12 million in annual revenue and more than 700 employees. At the time, American Computer Experience was the world’s largest technology training company for children and fostered partnerships with Microsoft, Intel, Lego, NASA, among others.
After Beach sold the business, he ventured into the academic world, clocking in as the top ranked business school professor for 12 semesters running while at Georgia State University. These days, he rules the airwaves with his School for Startups Radio, which can be heard on 12 AM/FM stations and scores of internet platforms. Among his many guests are “Shark Tank” judges and winners, billionaires, bestselling authors and countless entrepreneurs.
Give a listen, and one of the themes that runs through all of his guests’ success stories is their ability to deftly identify the trends and challenges that define their marketplaces. The foundation is simple, really. Success finds those companies that can find a good idea or run a good business better than anybody else.
“If you sit around and wait to be hit with a lightning bolt of creativity, it’s just not going to happen,” says Beach, who also is the bestselling author of “School for Startups.” “I don’t believe in creativity – at least not when it comes to being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship has nothing to do with creativity. Most of us are not creative people. Creative people end up in the arts. Ninety-three percent of businesses around the world are copies of existing businesses.”
One of the keys to building a successful and sustainable enterprise is being able to keep your finger on the pulse of your market. Enter market research. When it comes to the strategy, this much we know: Real market research – the kind that successful companies conduct every day – requires taking the time to uncover trends in your marketplace and finding out why they are there.
Simply put: You cannot afford to build a mousetrap without knowing if there are any mice.
“I think one of the most important things you can do with your market research today is to think way outside of the box,” Beach says. “It’s about calling people that you would think would never give you help. Start locally by calling your direct competitors – the people right down the street. Pretend you are a customer and find out everything there is to know. Ask what a good customer should know about the market and their business. Ask why you should do business with them.”
Next, Beach recommends expanding your research nationally to get the vibe on what the market looks like for similar companies in other areas. What are their customers looking for and how are they meeting those demands? “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” he says. Entrepreneurs love to talk about their business. They love to share best practices.”
– JIM BEACH: RADIO HOST OF SCHOOL FOR STARTUPS RADIO