How can entrepreneurs best understand what a market really wants? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Alex Rebert, Co-Founder at ForAllSecure, Inc., on Quora:

The main answer you'll hear is talk to your current and/or potential customers and try to understand their needs. I can definitely second that advice, and do that early. It enables you to validate ideas, and saving you weeks or months building a prototype that people might not want.

But it does come with a few caveats. What people tell you they want, and what they actually need might not perfectly match. Henry Ford famously said: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.". That does not mean you should ignore your customers. But you should apply critical thinking to their demands -- hopefully across a representative set of customers -- to understand their needs. If customers repeatedly tell you they want faster horse, maybe you conclude that they need a faster personal mode of transportation.

In addition, some customers might have too specific request & needs. You got to be careful not to overfit your solution to one customer. If you start doing a majority of the work for individual customer, you should re-evaluate your roadmap if you do not want to become a professional service company.

The good news is that when you find what the market wants, you will usually know. Meetings will go better and sales will start going through. So keep iterating until that happens!

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Published on: Apr 3, 2019