How to Do Market Research Without Giving Your Idea Away

Protecting your startup idea is important.

In fact, concerns about an idea’s privacy is one of the top reasons why would-be entrepreneurs don’t conduct market research. If they have to show their ideas to people in order to get feedback, doesn’t that mean anyone can steal their idea?

Don’t Be Too Worried

To be honest, these concerns are usually not necessary. Yes, there are some ideas where secrecy is key. Say you work in real estate and learned about a new deal about to hit the market — that’s a discovery you should probably keep to yourself.

But for MOST startup founders, the value of high-quality market research FAR outweighs the very small risk of someone stealing your idea. Because the fact is, most ideas aren’t very original, anyways. And most startups’ success depends on execution — not on an idea. Just because someone likes your idea doesn’t mean they possess the resources, know-how, and expertise to make it happen. And they probably don’t know someone else who can make it happen, either.

In fact, if someone really does love your idea and has resources, they’re FAR more likely to want to invest in YOU than try to co-opt you from scratch. Being public about your idea pre-launch is one of the best things you can do to build buzz and attract early-adopters and investors.

So just focus on getting high-quality feedback. Don’t worry too much about keeping secrets.

However, we do have some suggestions for how to keep your idea as close-to-the-vest as possible, even when presenting it to hundreds or thousands of people in an online survey.

Specific Tips

Close up any survey, webpage, or videos you use for your research as soon as possible. This means that no one participating in your market research should be able to go “back” to view your idea after they’ve seen it one time. In a market research survey, this means no “Back” button. For other types of market research, it means IP- or device-based anti-duplication, so that the same person cannot access your market research project more than one time. Here at PeopleFish, we implement both of these solutions in every survey.

Don’t present the entire idea all together. Instead, pitch bits and pieces of it at a time, and perhaps show any given respondent only half of the concept. What exactly does this look like? Say your idea is a new to-do list app that has two very unique and exciting features that make it better than existing alternatives. Rather than present both together, show one feature to one half of your audience, and show the other feature to the other half of your audience. That way, the entirety of your concept remains secret to you just you, but you get feedback on all pieces.

Have any third parties sign an NDA. This doesn’t involve participants stealing your idea so much as it involves third party platforms and consultants running off with it. That said, anyone reputable market research provider should be a company you trust, NDA or not. But better to be safe than sorry! Ask your provider if they have a standard mutual NDA for you both to sign. If they don’t, that’s a red flag. At PeopleFish, we have one ready for any client who asks.

Now, those three tips might not seem like much, but they help to wrap up the loose ends around any market research project. But the bottom line, like we said above, is not to worry. Trust yourself! Just because someone learns of your idea doesn’t mean they have what it takes to bring it to market. Only YOU can do that! So go out there and GET FEEDBACK. Leave the worrying to those entrepreneurs who are going to market blind—without conducting any market research beforehand.

Let us know if you’d like help with any of this. Click here to reach out.