Sometimes you come across a great entrepreneur who made a point of ignoring their market. Steve Jobs famously said that they didn’t do any market research for the Apple Macintosh computer because they weren’t building it for other people: “We built it for ourselves.”*
Everybody else needs to do their market research.
You need to understand who your typical customers are. It’s very easy to say ‘everybody needs my product’, but in the world of marketing, everybody can quickly mean nobody. Everybody wears underwear (well, nearly everybody), but that’s where the similarity ends: your sex, age, income bracket all impact on your choice of navy blue Y-fronts or a lace-trimmed basque. The market,like oranges, consists of many segments. Once you have segmented your market, you need to decide which ones are going to be the most profitable for you.
If they’re a company or organisation, you’ll want to know how many employees do they have, where their head office is, what sector do they operate in, etc. If they’re the general public, what their education is, how old they are, or what other products or services might they currently buy. Most of this will be vital when you are putting together a promotional campaign, because how and where you reach your prospective customers will depend a lot on who they are. Grey-haired affluent people in their sixties, owning houses in suburbia, live very different lives from young, single twenty somethings renting flats in the city centre. If you were wanting to set up a stall to attract the grey affluents, one place to catch them might be a garden centre on a Saturday morning. The twenty somethings are probably still in bed.
Of course these are stereotypes, and it’s important not to be carried away. For example, internet usage is far greater amongst older age groups than many young people realise. But how they use it can vary enormously (if you’re happier with email than twitter, you’re most probably not in your twenties!). You can invest in some professional market research using systems such as Mosaic, but sometimes good old local knowledge is all you need. If you’re an expert in a niche industry you’ll probably have a far greater understanding of your market dynamic than an external agency like ELK.
If you come to really know your market, you will find that your product offering will be influenced by that knowledge. You will have started with a product-orientated focus but ended with a customer-orientated focus, which is both more sustainable and more profitable.
*Of course he was being disingenuous, because ‘ourselves’ really meant tech-savvy creative people who wanted something which was both beautiful to use and beautiful to look at. So he knew his market really…