Your Market

At the 2007 D5 Conference, Steve Jobs was asked what he thought is the reason entrepreneurs succeed in business. He answered, 

“People say that you have to have a lot of passion for what you do and it’s true. And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t any rational person would give up.  It’s really hard. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time. So if you don’t love it…if you’re not having fun doing it…you don’t really love it. You’re going to give up. And that’s what happens to most people actually. If you really look at the ones that ended up being successful end quote in the eyes of society and the ones that didn’t. Oftentimes it’s the ones that are successful, loved what they did. So, they could persevere when it got really tough. And the ones that didn’t love it, quit. Because they’re sane. Who would want to put up with this stuff if you don’t love it?  So, it’s a lot of hard work. And it’s a lot of worrying. Constantly. And uh, if you don’t love it, you’re gonna fail. So you gotta love it. You gotta have passion.”

The most important thing about what you do is actually who you do it for.  Who do you serve?  Who is your customer?  Who you’re selling to is truly the very first question any entrepreneur should ask.  When my friends and I decided to have a big yard sale one Saturday there were several things we got wrong.  To begin with, the sign we made for the yard sale said, “Supper Sale.”  That’s so embarrassing, considering we were all in the 4th grade already.  But, the biggest mistake we made was on our market.  We were on a street with very low traffic and most of that was adults driving by our yard.  We were selling old toys.  If we had been selling our parents’ stuff then we might have found a market-fit with our products, but that probably wouldn’t have gone over too well with our parents. 

You need to know your market.  Who are your customers? They’re probably a lot like you.  This would make it much easier to define them. You should know everything about them. Don’t go too broad.  You need a smaller group that you can better define.  Consider you’re in a large room with a group at a party and you know maybe a third of them. This would be much easier to define than a stadium of people.  It would take you a lot longer to get to know them.

We don’t have a product yet.  First, we need to know who it is we’re selling to and then we can begin to determine what they need.  Part of knowing your market is knowing how you’ll get to them.  Is there a group of people to who you relate to that you also have easy access or could figure out how to get access to?  Mark Zuckerberg first targeted fellow students at Harvard and then opened Facebook up to other colleges.  If he had gone immediately to the whole world or even just his country, then it’s arguable that he might not have achieved the same success he did. How many social media companies have failed by going after everyone right out of the gate and just focussing on their product…not their customer. Look for the leverage you have already with groups of people.

Next, let’s consider what you have in common with these people. It’s important that you think of something you enjoy about life and that you have in common with them.  To build a successful company, you need to consider all the hours you’ll spend on it.  Don’t pick something unless you’re passionate about it.  So many consultants, coaches, and authors will lead people the other way on this and suggest that you don’t need to have passion for your market.  I disagree.  Are there exceptions to this? Of course. But, I would say that even if they’ve found success, they haven’t found as much joy as you will if you’re working completely in your element.  You need to want to eat, sleep, and breathe this.  You’ve got to be in love with it or darn close to it.  And it definitely can’t be like kissing your cousin. You have to be very comfortable with it.  You have to want to get out in front of this.  Your customers and the solution you provide to them needs to be something you’re passionate about.

My family’s market choice was driven by my father who acquired an existing 10-year old company.  It was a fit for him because he was very interested in education and technology.  Our company was and is an ed-tech company.  He was sold and committed the final 17 years of his life to build a great company.  He thoroughly enjoyed it. This is important to note because building a company has many struggles and real disappointments.  You need to love your market.  It will truly propel you through the most difficult moments.  

If you’re having trouble identifying the group you want to be your customers, think of how you spend your time.  What do you enjoy doing or learning about the most?  How do you spend your time? What aspirations do you have?  Who is it that does what you want to do or currently do in your free time?  Maybe it’s related to your current work.  Just because you want to leave your 9-5 doesn’t mean you don’t like what you do.  

Ask yourself what you most search for on the internet.  What videos do you watch?  What do you read?  What do you have the most experience with? What skills do you have?  What are you good at that you also enjoy?  Are there a lot of people you know who also are interested in this?  Another idea is to talk to your closest friend about what you’re thinking. If they know you, they may steer you clear of making a mistake here. Hopefully,, they’ll ask you questions about what you’re considering that are just the questions you need to ask yourself.  Maybe you were avoiding these questions and they brought them out in the light.  

Yes, speak to your best friend, but I would warn you not to talk to too many people about this.  You may not be ready for the negativity that you’ll probably face. In the end, only you know what is the best market for you to enter. And if you’re having trouble making a decision, consider that you can always pivot to another market or enter a new market with a second business.  Nothing is set in stone except whether you are entering a market or not.  Don’t sit on the sidelines too long.

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