There are no undefended markets. Established markets are characterized by entrenched competitors who have strong brand identify and deep customer relationships. Although Bill Hewlett always strove to “attack the undefended hill,” the reality is that any market worth having is at least lightly defended by the status quo of current alternatives. When scouting a new market you have to determine where you can make a clear contribution that will differentiate your offering from the alternatives currently available–including “doing nothing.”
Some keys to new market exploration:
- Look for the simplest product or service possible to get started. There are many reasons for starting with a minimum viable product but some key ones that it’s easier to develop, it’s easier to debug, and it’s easier to explain. It forces you to focus on a single pain point that is most likely to move at least a portion of your target customer set to make a purchase.
- “The simplest possible” is often very hard to see or conceive. Our education and expertise often drives us to add features–and therefore complexity–to existing solutions.
- It’s hard to see changes that have been accumulating slowly over time: established beliefs that have been obsoleted by slow but steady change, new possibilities you can access by applying expertise accumulated over a decade or two in a new direction,
- Unthinkable products must overcome mental barriers formed by “We’ve never done it that way” or “I’ve never seen that before.” They are hiding in plain sight but require you to ask a lot of basic questions. Be careful though, traditions prevent problems you did not realize were there: they often exist for powerful but forgotten reasons. If you find yourself considering an approach that departs from established practice in more than one or two ways be very careful: the odds are good that you will encounter a “forgotten problem” with each tradition you break, take on too many and fighting alligators will overwhelm your plans to drain the swamp.
Related Blog Posts
- Paul Graham’s Six Principles for Making New Things
- Peter Drucker on Why Entrepreneurs Reject Unexpected Success
- Customer Development and Channel Development
- Where Lean Startup Methods Help Most
- Customer Interviews: Allow Yourself to be Surprised
- Don’t Practice Veterinary Marketing: Talk to Prospects
- Market Discovery and Exploration Requires Models from Physics, Biology, and Psychology
- Better, Impossible, and Unthinkable Products
Photo Credit Edith Soto “Binoculars”