Ever since the first entrepreneur walked the earth thousands of years ago, "the market" has been ascribed attributes that in many cases, it just doesn't have. Certainly, the human race can be fickle and times do change, but overall, the barriers to bringing a product to market - and understanding what "the market" wants - have remained unchanged.
Yes, I know, technology and innovation have forced even the most steadfast of brands and products to rethink their marketing, but the actual task of understanding if you have a product that anyone wants - and who those potential buyers are - have remained unchanged.
Reflecting on this, I've identified seven key things that any entrepreneur worthy of the title needs to be considering if they are preparing to enter a new market or bring a new product to an existing market.
· Is there a clear, specific, urgent problem? This may seem simple enough, but we've all been caught watching television late at night and seen the infomercials. As we dove for the remote control, we collectively think "who is buying this and who thought it was a problem that needed a solution?" W.C. Fields had it right - there is a sucker born every minute, but oddball useless widgets built cheaply in faraway places are seldom a recipe for long-term company viability, so understanding the problem and designing a solution is a critical first step.
· Is there a large enough population to actually use this product or service? Viability is the name of the game in new markets and while you may have the latest whiz-bang solution, if there aren't enough people who think it's a problem - or can afford your solution - then you are selling in an empty market.
· Does the customer have money to spend? This one actually goes hand in hand with our previous one, but it is critical to understand. If you invent a simple cure for sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa but attempt to sell an expensive medication directly to the sufferers of the disease, then you'll fail, simple as that. A lack of a reliable distribution system, multiple forms of currency, and limited communication resources all conspire against your success in that plan, although approaching the governments of afflicted areas and utilizing their resources can certainly be a viable plan. Understand who your customer is and what their budget is (or can be).
· Can you actually find and attract the market? This may seem like a no-brainer, given the preponderance of the Internet of Things and social media saturation and that leads us to the real problem: people think that any idea can be sold in our interconnected world. Guess what? If they don't speak your language, use the mediums you advertise on, or like you, then they aren't going to buy or contract with you.
· Does your ideal client and potential market have a history of actually paying for solutions? Three decades ago, buyers of computers understood that they would have to buy an operating system for their new computer. Now, we expect a new computer to come loaded with a variety of software that can allow us to open up, click a few buttons, and be operating our new purchase within minutes - with no additional money spent. Which one of these markets are you attempting to break into - the one that will pay or the one that expects it free?
· Are these consumers you actually want to help? That may seem a bit harsh, but altruistic motives are usually powerful ones. Your target market and their demographics realistically need to be in alignment with your own beliefs and morals or you may have trouble reaching out to them - or keep them once others have entered the market.
· Are these consumers you actually can help? After all the other points above, the real sign of an entrepreneur is not whether you can sell a trinket in a convenience store but if you can provide something of real value to consumers in their lives and businesses. Can you?
As with anything we do as entrepreneurs, researching how our businesses impact and influence our customers and our markets - and our world - is critical to building something of value as a business. Your Dream, Vision, Purpose, and Mission all come together when you bring products to market - so make sure you're bringing your best.