What's Market Need Got to Do With It?

"Hey Troy, I have this sweet idea. Should I create a startup?"

I get that question a lot. I usually answer it with something like, "Yes! Absolutely. Creating a startup is one of the most exhilarating experiences you will have in this lifetime. Go and do it now."

But you should ask yourself some questions, as well, such as:
  • Is there a market for your product?
  • How does your product distinguish itself from the competition?
  • What kind of person are you? Can you handle stress? Is sleep totally overrated?

I find that when people consider these issues first, they tend to save a lot of time, money, and heartache in the long run. There's no use in throwing your full weight into a startup without knowing if there's a market there to catch you, if you can navigate the competition, or if you're the rugged individualist type.

That's why I've decided to pen a series of articles asking and addressing such questions.

We'll focus this first article on the most immediate and pressing question, one that often gets overlooked: Is there a market need for your product?

Let's say you've created an amazing new kind of energy drink. Let's say it's called Super Awesome Energy Elixir. (And let's say you've thought of an even better name for it.) What does your energy drink do? Does it rev up the customer's engines, drop their adrenal gland into overdrive, and make them feel like an 1980's Glamour Shots model? Awesome, sounds like an amazing and unique product.

But! Does Super Awesome Energy Elixir fill a need that some market somewhere is not already getting filled? Are people crying out for something like that? Who? Where are they?

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Your Product

Those are the types of concerns you need to look at when sniffing out a market for your product. The good news is that people are already asking for what they want. One preliminary way to find out if your product is someone's dream come true is to check out Google Trends. Just enter a search term related to your product to see how many times it has been searched for online in the recent past. If those search terms don't seem to lead to somewhere people can find what they're looking for, then you're looking at a possible market need!

Got Data?

Once the initial pulse has been taken, go more in-depth. Market research firms can be great sources of raw data pertaining to the markets in which your product will be competing. Buy a market research report for details about market size, geographic concentration, demographics, and other signifiers. Market research reports can also tell you about competition, industry performance, and prospects for the future. All this data can be taken in light of your other findings, anecdotal or otherwise.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Finally, always listen: out in the world, online, at family gatherings, and just anywhere people are complaining about something about their life that hurts. Find the pain, and be the medicine. If your product hones in on that, your chances of success can be very good indeed.