Many companies avoid underserved markets, primarily for three different reasons.
First, design and production are often more difficult. In our case at ThirdLove, nursing bras require more time and resources to create. We make them because we feel it's in line with our brand's mission, but it's easy to see the difficulties associated with creating products for underserved markets and why businesses decide not to pursue them.
Second, there's the perceived issue of brand ethos. Some companies look at a market like plus-size clothing and decide it doesn't fit with their brand image.
And finally, one of the largest challenges to creating products for overlooked markets is that there simply isn't a template to work from. If no one has done it before, it's difficult to know where to start.
Keep in mind, if a market has been overlooked, that also means there's a lot of potential revenue out there. It is possible to serve consumers who have traditionally been left out in the cold while building a thriving business.
Here's how to go about it:
1. Acknowledge and own the first-mover advantage.
If you look at any great startup, you'll notice they either created a new market or entered an old one by doing something that was overlooked or deemed too difficult.
Of course, once you prove an opportunity exists within a market, the door is open for more entrants. It's easy for a new company to copy what you've created if they see a framework that's working.
If you can execute operationally and serve your initial customers well, then you'll have a serious first-mover advantage. You'll be the brand that catered to them when no one else did, and that creates a sense of loyalty and a connection with your customers.
When getting into an overlooked market, take advantage of the landscape while you're still relatively alone. Your competitors may be able to imitate your copy or your style, but they'll never be able to copy that connection you make with consumers as the first brand in the space.
2. Develop your own personality.
When we first started doing photo shoots for ThirdLove, our Chief Creative Officer Ra'el and I were adamant about not having images of models pillow fighting or lounging on beds with pouty expressions. Every other lingerie company was doing that.
Our photographer asked us what lingerie brands we wanted to look like, and we told him, "None of them." Right then, one of the difficulties of building a product for an underserved market became clear--there was no template to work off.
Instead of looking at what had already been done in our own industry, we had to look to brands in apparel, shoes, and handbags. We got our inspiration from brands that had created their own ethos and personality to connect with consumers.
While originality requires tough creative work, it also lets you develop a truly unique personality for your brand and creates the standard for a new market.
3. Focus on being consumer positive.
It wasn't long ago that most brands were one-dimensional when it came to their brand image and ethos.
There are segments of consumers who have traditionally been given fewer options because brands simply decided they wouldn't serve them. That's been the case for a long time now in the fashion industry--67 percent of women in the U.S. are plus-size, but less than 20 percent of clothing sold in 2016 was plus-size.
For our team, creating inclusive sizes is a decision that represents our mission and our brand. We all have friends and family members who have been underrepresented by the sizing in many brands, and we wanted to create products for them.
When you focus on serving the needs of an overlooked market, you're not just tapping into a new stream of revenue. You're providing consumers with more options, better choices, and a sense of empowerment.
If you have the chance to make underserved markets happy, you'll be able to create a huge revenue opportunity while actually doing some good in the world. You don't have to choose between the two if you decide to serve people who have been waiting for someone to give them exactly what they need.