Customized Qualitative Research Identifies Potential Obstacles for New Product Launch

“Out-of-the-box thinking can help companies uncover barriers and find solutions to market entry.”


An international manufacturer involved in the plumbing industry was planning to introduce a new product to the U.S. market that would use new technology not yet found in the market. While the product was successful in other countries around the world, the company wanted to understand what obstacles, if any, they might face in getting the product launched in the U.S.

The company indicated the product introduction would take place within two years, which gave them time to explore the market and to find out what specific issues they may encounter. Since the product would be new to the U.S., the client was looking for a research company that was familiar with the U.S. commercial plumbing market to provide them with guidance and direction on the project.

A customized research plan that clearly identifies the research objectives, target audience(s) and action plan is extremely valuable to helping companies identify challenges and opportunities for a new product release. “Thinking out of the box” to design a unique research plan can help companies find answers to their marketing challenges quickly and efficiently.


To help the client quickly identify the barriers and obstacles to market entry and provide that “out of the box thinking.” AIM designed a customized research plan that involved getting qualitative feedback from engineers and water authorities in various regions throughout the U.S. After meeting with the client, AIM developed a list of specific topics and questions designed to be an open-ended format to encourage open and frank dialogue. While some of the topics were similar between the two groups, some were unique to the specific audience.

For example, the new product may require a variance in pipe size with minor revision to the International Plumbing code. Therefore, the client wanted to know whether this variance would deter engineers from specifying the product and how likely the city/county or state construction review entity would be to approve the variance. For water authorities, the research included questions on how water was billed for commercial projects to identify where and how much savings projects might realize with the new product. The research was also designed to provide the client with actual samples of bills based on water usage and any information on rebates or incentives for water saving measures that were currently being offered.

AIM recommended the research include twenty in-depth phone interviews with a variety of “top” engineer companies and with various water authorities across the U.S.


With the use of an open-ended question format with a variety of engineering and water professionals across the U.S., AIM was able to uncover some of the issues the client would need to address before entering the U.S. market. Not only did the research identify some of the key obstacles to overcome, it also identified areas of concern that the client had not anticipated.

This preliminary research also indicated younger engineers may be more receptive to the new product. In addition, there was an indication that the product would likely provide the market with significant water savings but would require additional research to determine more specifically how and where this may occur. While the research indicated the product may face some resistance from engineers, the feedback indicated the engineers were willing to work with the manufacturer to get an approval on a code variance.

The open-ended question research format, encourages participants to provide unaided feedback and a “top of mind” response. Often this type of research leads to more questions and the need for more quantitative research. By conducting in-depth phone interviews with both engineers and water professionals, AIM was able to encourage the client to “think outside the box” when designing and implementing a new product for the U.S. commercial market. It gave them a new perspective on what issues needed to be addressed and what questions to resolve in order to successfully launch the product.

Two short videos may be of interest to you to demonstrate qualitative research techniques. One is Jim Nowakowski’s discussion of interviews with pet owners where students neglected to talk to the pet. The other is Patty Fleider’s discussion of AIM capabilities. As the director of research at AIM, it’s a good overview of what you can expect if you work with AIM.

Research is a secret weapon

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For more information on how AIM can assist you with exploring the market for a new product, for help in identifying key hurdles in a potential product launch, email or call 847-358-8558.