Are You Solving The Problems of a Hungry Market?

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istock_000004414879xsmallEveryone’s got something they’d love to do for a living. Question is…

Do enough people want to buy what you’re looking to sell to call it a business?

For example, you may have a hidden passion for designing biodegradable hemp thimbles decorated with organic dyed cashews, but do enough other people want to buy those suckers to make it a business? This is actually one of the biggest missteps folks make in launching a small business—thinking you are your market.

Sometimes you are, many times you think you are…but you’re not. So, rather than invest a boatload of time, energy and money in launching something built around your own belief that a sea of people with the same mad passions as you exist, do a bit of research.

Ask these two giant questions:

  • Does the service or product that I create through my passion solve a strong, emotionally-invested problem for other people? And,
  • How many other people? Is there a large enough, regularly renewing market of people who are:
  1. Willing to buy what I’m selling,
  2. At a price that will make it worth the effort?

If the answer is yes, you’ve got a potential business on your hands.

But, if the answer to either of these questions is no, you’ve got a serious business model challenge.

Does that mean you abandon your passion-driven quest to make a living doing what you love? The answer is…maybe. There may, in fact, be certain quirky passions that are so solitude driven and so oriented away from community and problem solving that they’d be extremely difficult to build a living around.

But, far more often, there is a way to go about your passion differently in an effort to discover or sometimes even create the demand and community needed to turn it into a business.

As I mention in Career Renegade (the book), take a serious look not only at the activity itself, but the:

  • Culture surrounding the activity
  • Need for community surrounding the activity
  • Need for products or service that solve a problem in the community or provide a rallying point
  • Available modes of access to that activity, and
  • Informational and educational needs of that community

In the end, it all comes back to finding the genuine (read “not fabricated”) intersection between what makes you come alive and what enough people are willing to pay for. Clear that hurdle and you take a big step toward the process of turning your passion into your profession.

So, what do you think?

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3 responses

3 responses to “Are You Solving The Problems of a Hungry Market?”

  1. Greg Rollett says:

    You got it John. Another way to look at it though is from a one man shop perspective. You do not need millions of customers to be successful (or what success it to you). Some online businesses need less than 100 customers on retention at low rates to make a nice living. So when you do the research to see if there is money being spent in your niche, look at where the die-hards are spending money. Get these people on board and your business can only grow from there.

  2. Ah yes, the infamous hurdle you speak of… it’s a tough situation. It sucks to realize that what you want to do might not be such a great idea because nobody will buy what you have to sell. You know it, but you deny it for a while. But then you finally realize the truth.

    I’ve been through this in the past so I know exactly what you are talking about here. It is possible to change your idea a little and maybe make it work so there definately is hope, it’s not worth giving up.

    Really cool post.

  3. Anlina Sheng says:

    Your post is spot on, though, on the flip side, you might think your passion (or idea) is not marketable and be completely wrong…

    I mean, if someone had come to me and said they wanted to start a business selling fake testicles that hang off the trailer hitch of your truck, I would have laughed at them and told them no one would be dumb enough to buy something like that. And yet… there they are, and apparently are popular enough to be sold by quite a few different businesses. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truck_balls

    So, some times you just never know what the market will actually support (Seriously, who buys these things? I’m actually curious as to what kind of market research was done before these made it to production.)