When you start a business, your main goal is to discover who those people are that not only like your product but are willing to part with their cash to purchase what you’re selling.
If you can’t find the right market fit for your product, chances are you will not survive. I’ve seen companies with horrendous products find the perfect market fit and thrive. Conversely, I’ve seen incredible products launch and completely flop because no one could find them or the wrong people found them and didn’t want them.
Your job if you are just starting out is two-fold: First, figure out who is going to want your product. Second, find them and put your product in front of them as often as possible.
Finding your market
When I started out with Nic Harry, I was my biggest customer. I created my entire business on the premise that there were people like me in the world who wanted to wear incredibly comfortable and daringly bright socks.
I figured that people like me, men who enjoyed style and were tired of boring socks, were looking for something new and different. So I began to research.
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Research is the first part of building a business that most entrepreneurs forget about. I do my initial research online. Simply typing in the search terms relevant to my product and seeing if there are other people looking for the same thing. A great resource is Google Trends. Head over there, type in a term and see if more or less people are searching for it over time. Then begin to discover which people, where, in which country and how frequently they search.
That’s an easy way to figure out if there’s potential. But it’s just a start. My next move is to observe real people in the real world. I visit popular coffee shops and malls and walk around. A lot. I spent hours at airports when I was travelling and public parks looking at people’s feet to see what socks they were wearing and if there was a spark to be seen.
All through this initial process I hadn’t actually produced a product. I was researching and finding my market. Then I launched and started selling socks and trust me when I say that when you have a product in the market you learn new things all the time about who is buying your product and why.
Niche, big niche or mass market
Your target market is very dependant on your business, brand positioning and product. Is your product fighting a price war? Does it battle competitors on quality? Is it premium, mass market, niche, luxury or something different altogether?
For each one of these markets there is a different target. Inside each of these is a sub-market. You have to plan your business, product and target market carefully, but also leave room for movement.
When I started selling socks I hadn’t thought about women buying socks for men. Today women make up a fairly large chunk of our customer base. I couldn’t have seen this shift (because I was singularly focused at the time) when I launched because I was building a men’s brand for men.
Things change and you shouldn’t blindly marry an idea regardless of the changing facts. If your model needs to shift slightly, embrace that and make the best of it.
Related: 10 Questions to ask before determining your target market
Everything to everyone
A mistake that I have been on the brink of making a few times and that I see many young brands make is ignoring your niche, your market and your community. You don’t want to be everything to everyone.
There’s a beer company called Goose Island and they have a tagline that shows me they understand their market. They famously say: “We don’t want to be the only beer you drink, we just want to be the best beer you drink.”
What a fantastic way to be something very specific to someone very specific. This is not the beer for everyone all the time. This is the beer for the distinguished drinker to have when he feels like something amazing. This isn’t Castle lager or Budweiser.
I can almost guarantee what happens when someone drinks a Goose Island IPA — they tell their friends that it’s the best beer they’ll drink that night. Simple and effective. Know your market and target them relentlessly.
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