I once had the impression that the ‘devil was in the detail’. I mean, it wasn’t like anyone had told me any different. Exploring a new idea meant hours of brain dumps, envisioning an idea that I ‘thought’ was a great idea, but lacked market credibility. I learned nothing kills time, money, and product uptake like the convoluted depths of barrierless imagination turned into a product. Although ‘building lean’ is a notion only recently popular, it’s something I wish I had in my arsenal many years ago.
So, you’ve got a great idea for a startup and you’re excited for the world to experience it. You spend days, weeks, months formulating ideas, noting down pages upon pages of scope. Every waking moment consumed your brain, you can’t even use the bathroom without tapping more thoughts into Evernote. Your 20-page specifications document is ready to see the world, the quote to build it is mind-boggling, but you assume that’s the price you pay to build the next big thing. You dive right in, a year of development goes by, you launch your product.
Then nothing happens. Users are unaware how your product benefits them, they’re confused by the complexity and innumerable features. You forgot to build a true MVP and raced to the “finished” product, that turned out on a completely different trajectory to what your customers actually wanted.
There are ways to avoid the above scenario, and it only takes the comprehension of two important things: Your market, and how your product can supply value to that market.
1. Understand Your Market
Think of your approach to finding your niche market as a choice of firearm between a shotgun or a sniper rifle. It’s easy to take a shotgun, spray bullets in every direction and hope to hit a potential target. It takes a lot more concentration and dedication to take a sniper rifle to hit your target, but you can rest assured, you’ll hit your target.
That’s the difference between formulating your idea with a vague idea of who you’re targeting versus knowing exactly who you’re targeting, and only then building the product.
- Niche as hard as you can: Define exactly who you want to target as an ideal customer. For example, 25 to 35 year old females in Australian capital cities who spend over $200 per month online shopping
- Determine exactly what you’re selling in detail: Hopefully, if you’re going into business, you’re satisfying a market need that isn’t being met, or isn’t being served sufficiently. For example, selling custom high heels inspired by top Instagram posts, is a highly niche product.
- See it from their perspective: If you know your market niche and what you’re selling, how would your prospective customers derive value, or what behaviours would indicate they’d be ready to buy? You can do this by surveying your target audience, or simply ‘get out of the building’ and start talking to real people.
- Define competition: Whether they’re direct or indirect competitors, it’s important to define where they exist, what type of audience they attract and how they could potentially affect your business if they decided to compete against you more aggressively.
2. Solve One Problem For Your Solution Fit
You can’t be all things to all people, so it’s important to identify early on who is going to purchase your product. One of the greatest early indicators of startup success, is that the startup is solving a real, existing problem, in a niche market large enough for business viability.
Here’s how you find your Problem-Solution Fit:
- Get intimate with your “buyers”: You can have what you believe is the best idea in the world, but if prospective customers don’t want to use it, it’s not going to make you very happy in the long run. They say you’ll never really understand what you should actually build unless you get out of the building first, and they’re right. Talk to your prospective customer userbase, person to person, and try to understand what motivates them, what makes them open their wallet, and try to uncover friction points in their every day life.
- Find the real issue: Once you’re talking to people, ask them what their problems are. What do they simply ‘put up with’ when it comes to the industry you’re targeting. Ask them, ‘if I build a product that does [whatever your product does], would you use it?’ … If the answer is repeatedly yes with multiple people, you’re onto a winner.
- Determine how to tweak your idea to better serve your audience: Once you determine what you’re going to build, it’s important not to be too attached to it. You’re building the solution based on your comprehension of how the problem can be solved. Build a simple MVP to satisfy users when trying to solve the problem, and if users are loving it, you’re doing well. If users are dropping off, or you notice several misuses of your MVP, evolve and iterate your product until it’s so refined, your audience just can’t live without it.
How did you determine what you needed to build? Did your idea change after performing a problem-solution fit exercise? Share it below!