V167: Small Biz Betties: Discovering What the Market Needs

Welcome back to Small Biz Betties, where we’ll be talking about starting and maintaining your own small, niche business.

Today let’s discuss the most important thing, your IDEA. Every small business starts with this, with the idea, and grows (or doesn’t) from there.  However, not every idea is a good idea, even though it may seem brilliant at the time.  Your job as a budding entrepreneur is to discover what the market needs, and then serve it.  So ask yourself these questions…
1. What is my market?

This is one of the easier questions – chances are you not only know your market, but you are a part of it.  As a costumer or craftsperson, you have the happy circumstance of being both a supplier and consumer of your product, and you doubtless know a large number of other folks within your market, from whom you can gather information.

2. What is missing in the marketplace?

More accurately, “what doesn’t exist,” “what can we (members of the target market) never ever get our hands on?”  If you can chance upon one of these items – in my case it was historically accurate silk shoes – then you will have a good chance of surviving the first year of business, because you become the only supplier for that item, in a large community in dire need.

Now, coming up with a “doesn’t exist” product can be daunting, seem even impossible, but think about it this way – is {this product} available for {this price point}?  Or is {this product} available in {these materials} or {this range of sizes}?  You may want to and have the skills to create products that already exist, but can offer them in a way nobody has done before, or create the product with a certain pizzaz that is unique to you, and valuable to your customers.

Check out all the competition and see what they are producing, and for what price points.  If you find quite a lot of competition, your idea may not be viable in an already crowded marketplace.

3. Who will buy my product? (What is the target market?)

Community plays a large part in getting a new business off the ground, so it is important to participate in your target market’s realm.  This could mean visiting blogs, and starting your own, joining Facebook groups, or forums, and generally “keeping an ear to the ground” for information that will help you create and test your idea.  For instance, back when Chris and I thought about making shoes, the first thing I did was ask the readers of my blog and followers of my Facebook page what they thought of the idea.  The response was great, so we went ahead, but if the response had been “meh,” then we would have known that this was not an area that needed servicing – there wasn’t much of a demand.

So find several high-traffic venues online, start asking questions, and see who replies, and what they say in their comments.  Also get out to events and social gatherings, and ask questions there.  You may find that originally you though your target market was women ages 16-30, but those mainly talking about and purchasing your product are women over 40, or men ages 50-70!

4. How will I sell my product?

This is something for a more in-depth post, but it is an important question to ask from the get-go.  How will you sell your product? Online through Etsy, a blog, a stand-along website? In a booth at local events?  In shops and stores that cater to your market?  You may have the most stellar idea on the planet, but you have to be able to present it to a large proportion of people, so that they may buy it.

I know it can be hard to let go of an idea you’re excited about, if you find that the market won’t support it.  Awhile back I had the “brilliant” idea to start a clothing line, beginning with t-shirts with cute little hand-drawn graphics on them.  I had six designs and a handful of different color t-shirts, and I was going to sell my “designer” t-shirts for $20 on Etsy and my own website.  I invested over $1000 of my own money to have 50 of each shirt made, and the day came to put them up for sale, but then they didn’t sell.  They continued to not sell, and nobody was coming to my website.  Why?

Because there are literally hundreds of thousands of t-shirts out there, and mine didn’t offer anything different or special.  I managed to sell quite a few over the years, on and off, but I still have a closet full of t-shirts, and no idea what to do with them.

So how do you avoid this?  Truthfully answer the questions, and get not just a second opinion, but as many opinions as you can possibly get, from people who are not your personal friends or relatives.  Brainstorming with others is always more productive than sitting alone, racking your brain…plus, it’s more fun!

If you have questions you’d like answered, or are a small business owner and would like to guest post for SBB, drop me a line – [email protected] .


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