Podcast – Martech E1 with Dorai Thodla – Pravin Shekar | Outlier Marketer

Research Tools for Making a Product Pitch

Martech Conversations: Episode 1

In this first episode, we discuss the tools that can be used to validate ideas and find similar products and research about them.

Follow Dorai Thodla here: @dorait

Follow Pravin Shekar here: @pravinshekar

Get the list of all tools discussed in Martech Conversations!

Get the List of Tools


Pravin Shekar: Hello, and welcome. I'm Pravin Shekar along with me is Dorai Thodla. Two crazy men, who are going to have a whole lot of conversations around technology, tools and marketing. So, Dorai, my first question to you is, you work with a lot of startups, I work with a lot of startups and the standard problem is either I am not aware of the marketing tools and technologies that are available that will help me in marketing. Or if I do know, I would rather use the free version, then I don't think I can either afford or I don't want to pay for the monthly part. So, my first salvo to you is if I have to do something free or at a very frugal way, in terms of researching or trying to find out, how do I go ahead and do that? What technologies are available for us?

Dorai Thodla: Yeah. So, let us drill down a little bit on your question, as a pick one task that you want to do like, as a startup, what is the very first thing you want to do? You get a bunch of ideas. Let's say you want to validate these ideas?

Pravin Shekar: Absolutely.

Dorai Thodla: Okay. And validation actually means that is anybody else has implemented this idea? Is there a product that already exists? Or is there a market that exists? Which comes a little bit later, but that's not a knowledge that startups normally have, you know, all they start, learning all these things about, total available market, this, that and all little bit later? Because fast encounter with some funding agency.

Pravin Shekar: That's, that's the only time they actually do that.

Dorai Thodla: How big is the market? And how are you going to reach the customers and all these kinds of things? And so, it that knowledge that even the, you know, the talk about unknown, unknowns, right? So, these are unknown, unknowns. And you're starting out, right? So, let me ask you a question. Like, when you help a startup, pick some example startup, say, somebody who's building a product for the education market, or a game for children to learn anything, you know, pick one, and tell me how do you mean, let's say that, you know, you've not used any tools, or you know about a few tools. Now, what do you use? And how do you go about it?

Pravin Shekar: Well, the first thing is our very own Google. But before that, Dorai, if I was that CEO, I would write down all my hypotheses, write down my questions, in terms of what I want to find out. And go ahead and use Google search to find out if there are answers but go beyond the first page. Because the joke goes that which is the best place to hide a dead body, the second page of Google Search.

Dorai Thodla: And also, a lot of people are trying to climb into that first page, however you define the first pages. And there are a lot of interesting things about it. So, let's talk about it. So, Google is free. So, I'll talk about a couple of techniques that actually is something even more free than just a search. What is your default number of results settings in Google? Do you know that there is one thing called?

Pravin Shekar: I've never used that before that's a learning for me.

Dorai Thodla: So, I normally go set it to 100. Okay. And the reason is that if you look at the top few, the first few, you get are ads. Okay. The second thing that happens is, I don't know whether this happened to you, however, is that when I go search for something, I find more references to that site than that site itself. Right?

Pravin Shekar: I find that very, very common nowadays.

Dorai Thodla: Yeah, I find these directories like for example, I want to let's say I want to order something from Grand Sweets. I go and type ‘Grand sweets Chennai’, and then I'll find all the guys who refer to like, I'll get Swiggy first. I know saying you know, we supply from Grand Sweets, then I'll get maybe Uber Eats or whatever. And I'll get a lot of this other stuff. And then before I even the original guy, who wasn't the main search term appears, right, that'll be may fifth, sixth, seventh. So, I always set it to 100 so that I can I get that. Second thing is that I look at that number. That number is very scary. Some. If it says 5,730,000 blah. I said, what am I going to do with all those results. And then if you click if you've never done these things, and you click on this, and you happily consuming that, you know, some nice blog post about, you know, all that stuff. And suddenly you look at the date and notice it was from 1997 or 2003. So, Google has another feature that if you go to the tools, and you click on it, it says gives you a timeline and said, I want my searches to be done only in the last, you know, one year, or last one month, or you can even specify a date range, the last three months has anybody mentioned a company, for example. So, let us go back to a product, right. So, these are a couple. And if you just explore the advanced search, you will find lots of interesting ones. And that is an entire session on how to do Google search.

The third thing we found out is Google gives you what is called a Custom Search Engine. Which is, which will give you the first 100 results. So, we wrote ourselves this little tool that calls the takes a search, sends it to Google gets back the results, and then creates a CSV file of all the first 100 results. And then later, you can consume it, you can analyze it and then Google searches most of the time, even if you say I'm feeling lucky, or whatever, is never what do you think it will be? Okay. So that means you need to fine tune the search. And to fine tune, you know, some sometimes they have these nice things like snippets and all that, you need to start fine tuning the search and then you have to keep expanding the search term. So when you start doing these kinds of things, and then ultimately, you want to take these results, right now I keep clicking on every link, it opens a tab and then I go and look at the tabs and all that sort of stuff. There are you know, you can copy paste, that is the lowest technology, you can just copy paste it into Excel or whatever, or some page, there is another tool that will given the search results, it can say extract all the links and store it in a file. It's very, very simple.

And so, there is this whole class of tools, there are things called robotic process automation tools, some of them are pricey, and some of them are free that you can get, which will let you take these, then look at it. And then Hey, where am I? Where is the search from? You know, sometimes the same word has multiple meanings in like a bank will bring a river bank and a financial bank, you know, so ambiguity, can you how do you disambiguate? The other thing is that if you just type a term with multiple words in it, or the term in the beginning, if I say cloud publishing tools, I'll get a lot about cloud and very little about publishing tools. So, you can do you know, some extent, you can mitigate this by saying cloud plus public plus tools kind of thing, which is, I guess, again, a search thing. But the more important stuff is that you can look at keywords in your space.

So, the first thing you do is when you think about a product is how do I describe my product? Can I describe my product in like, five keywords? Sub the way you do it is if I am my user, how would the user find my product? And what search terms are the likely to type? And we'll come to how to even find the search terms, which is an entirely different topic. But what search terms would be tape and I would normally, you know, being a techie, I'll always, you know, look at my technology terms. But users may not be using that kind of stuff, right? So, what are the terms and then go and type those terms the way you think about the product? That's why I think the first step you do even before you go to Google search, you mentioned a very important thing that write down a list of hypotheses, I wouldn't go to that point, I will simply say, take your project, product or service and do a pitch, which is like a one paragraph. You know, right now my product is for this year, the standard pitch template. Second, my product serves this user, my product is for this purpose. And you know, it's got this unique feature, whatever you want to do, you write a small blurb, or a tagline that you may want to put in the product, or write one paragraph description. And then you look at when you go through the description, eliminate all the common English words and you get a bunch of keywords. They're the ones to start with. Okay,

Pravin Shekar: Lovely, lovely.

Dorai Thodla: And then some of them may be full words, some of them will be phrases. That's why you will have problems if you come up with a problem with a product name like Akilia or something like that, or Saraswathi because I'm an education marketplace. You're going to get very crazy results. When you go to Google and search for something like that. You will get pictures of Saraswathi and all depending on where you are. So, the product name you can't really use your product name as a googleable thing, and sometimes, you know, we want to have a very clear, but there are product names like Google, Delicious, you know, Flickr, none of them, they didn't mean anything at that point. And just because they could get the.com. You know, they were using it. So, you take this description. And then from this description, generate your own list of keywords, and keep trying these keywords, and then figure out which ones get you closest to the, you know, results that you're expecting. That is, that's one thing. Second thing is the product. And if you think it's another startup, so either it's an established product that somebody like Microsoft, or Google or Facebook, or one of the biggies are shipping, or a small subset of their, you know, big offering, like a CRM, you know, say is the first name that comes to your mind.

But there are some 100 CRM systems that are not so Salesforce, right. So, if they're a well-known term that you'll see a lot of big competitors, but with less use terms like CRM for architects, or CRM for builders. So, when you qualify it with the type of user, it will start narrowing down the search. So, the couple of keyword tools, which are available as plugins, if you use Chrome, I can just go to my Chrome and I can put an extension, they are also available in Firefox and others. So, you put an extension, what you do is when you type a keyword and you get the search results, they will also give you all the alternate keywords that people use for this. So, you can grab those keywords. So essentially, you end up saying, okay, these 10 keywords, describe my product. And the way you validate, suppose it's a product, it's not yet a product, it's like a very tiny thing. That is something, let's say it's a marketing tool for finding influencers.

Pravin Shekar: Right.

Dorai Thodla: I'll go to well-known watering holes, like Product Hunt, and then look for it in product. And Product Hunt is more, you know, the generally people these are, you know, for sure, these are people who do not have a lot of marketing money, even though that is not true anymore. Because a lot of people are using it as an experimental way of, you know, doing it, you can go and describe the product and see whether you can find the products and then go click on the product to see whether they are like what you think. There is one called BetaList, even though it's called a beta list, it's, you know, supposed to be in fact, that's how we got like 300 users in one search about 20 years ago, right? And so, you go to BetaList, you just type about a product. You know, we do something called a web monitoring tool. But even I think web monitoring tool is a very, very specific search, but it's not, you know, what are you monitoring the web for? Is it for security? Is it for seeing whether somebody trashed it and use it for competitive analysis? There are like 10 different uses. So, I start expanding my search terms by seeing the results, you know, analysis. So that's basically how you get started.

Pravin Shekar: Dorai, whole lot of learning for me as well, in terms of taking it back home. One question I will leave, which we will cover in the following discussion is about Duck Duck Go as a competitor for Google search. But listeners and viewers, this is the first opening batting partnership between Dorai and myself. If you have any questions specific to technology, marketing, or the marriage between the two, please feel free to reach out to both of us, Dorai Thodla and Pravin Shekar. And that brings us to the end of the first episode in terms of our conversations. You can call it the Martech Conversations.

Dorai Thodla: Sounds good. All right.