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Market Entry and the Art of Staying Nimble

August 12, 2019

The famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky was once asked by a reporter: “What makes you better than other players on the ice?”

market entry“Other hockey players go where the puck is,” he answered. “I go where the puck is going.”

Every CEO is trying to stay ahead of the game, to anticipate market trends and pivot points, and remain nimble enough to respond rather than chase the competition.

How can firms endeavoring market entry think (and perform) like hockey players? Better yet, one of the greatest hockey players of all time?

For advice on this topic, we spoke with Michael Vigeant, CEO of Greatblue Research. We interviewed Michael in a webinar on June 25th, 2019 titled: What You Don’t Know Can Kill Your Business: Nailing Market Research for U.S. Market Entry.

What is the first market entry task for a scaling firm?

All scaling firms, whether they are startups or well-established global companies, need to start by understanding the audience they will be servicing in the new market.

As a market researcher, Michael’s first step is to understand from his client’s perspective who the firm will be servicing and what is their strategy for reaching them.

“What types of channels do they use in their existing market, how do they advertise and communicate their brand, and does it resonate with that audience.”

For startups, where an audience needs to be identified from scratch, Michael assists in this process by using a number of market research methodologies such as phone and digital to identify the personas they are targeting.

For an explanation of the full range of data collection methodologies that Michael uses and why check out this post. 

The importance of testing

We all operate on a set of assumptions based on our own personal knowledge of the world.

What made hockey players like Gretzky so great isn’t that he operated on fewer assumptions or that he was naturally more intuitive. Rather, he built a strategy during each game based on knowledge gained from testing those assumptions.

At MEET, we believe strongly in maximizing every opportunity for our clients to test their assumptions. We then work with them to collect and use that data to constantly refine and inform their strategy for reaching their target market.

At Greatblue Research, Michael employs a similar approach. Once he understands who his clients believe they are targeting in the new market, Michael develops a testing strategy that will validate (or invalidate) these assumptions.

From a market research perspective, the key lies in how one frames the question.

“If you ask the right questions in the right way and you build them in an independent, objective fashion, they’re not going to lead you to the answer that you hope for. They’re going to lead you to the answer that is accurate.”

Staying ahead of the puck

Great CEOs have vision—but strong vision can be a double-edged sword. For some CEOs, those same qualities that keep them firmly committed to surmounting the persistent challenges to market entry can blind them from recognizes shifting trends that require a change in strategy.

Willingness to test one’s assumptions is often not enough. CEOs must have the foresight and the courage to remain nimble in the face of new knowledge about the market—even when it feels like a shift away from a previously desired endpoint.

From Michael’s perspective, true leaders are looking at information, being humbled by it, and saying “the data is telling me it’s time to move.” A well-designed market research strategy will indicate which direction to head next.

Maintaining your balance

market entryStriking the right balance between attained knowledge and new data is fundamental to the art of remaining nimble. In Michael’s experience, there’s a happy balance between getting too excited by new data and potentially making a wrong move, and keeping patient while not missing the boat completely.

Maintaining your vision while remaining open to change is not easy. Everyone, even Gretzky, has to work at it. Fortunately, there are great coaches out there to help.

Interested in learning how MEET can help you devise a validated market entry strategy? Contact us today.

For more insights from Michael Vigeant, CEO of Greatblue Research, check out our entire interview here. To check out all of MEET’s webinar content on how to successfully scale your company in the U.S. market, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.


MEET ( helps international B2B growth companies soft land and scale in the U.S. through trade shows and in-person events. MEET’s processes help its clients ramp-up sales quickly and maintain a steady stream of high-quality prospects going forward.  Contact Bill Kenney for a no obligation conversation: or +1 (860) 573-4821.