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Finding and Targeting Your Market

Your startup idea may be fantastic, but if you don’t have a market for it, it won’t get off the ground. Whether no one actually needs or wants your product or whether your competitors look just like you, you’ll hit a dead end. If you find your market early in your startup process, you’ll not only have a better chance at gaining customers, but you’ll also find it easier to draft compelling marketing content. Let’s take a look at how to find your market, determine your unique product position, and start your marketing strategy.

Research the Context

You want to find your product-market fit and potential target audience early in your product development process to ensure that your efforts are directed on a productive path.

Market Research

Your market research should give you a thorough understanding of what people need or want in your field. For example, if you’re developing a mobile app, is it performing a function that individuals need and would use? And, is it something they would pay for?

Your market research can include both secondary and primary research. Secondary research includes finding existing information relevant to your product and field — learning about current trends in your industry, sifting through census and demographic information, diving into studies relevant to your product and the need it fills for your customers. Most of this legwork can be done with a good internet connection and online search skills.

Primary research delves into first-hand information gathering catered specifically to the insights you are trying to gain. For this type of research, you can develop surveys, conduct interviews or focus group research, and collect data on your own existing products through beta testing. If you have a minimum viable product (MVP) already, you can collect data on that. You can gather quantitative data, such as conversion percentages and marketing engagement numbers, as well as qualitative data through surveys that ask for customer feedback. Both types of data are valuable in determining your market fit.

Market research can also cover tangential issues, such as what values are important to your potential customers. If your product addresses a need while also touching on a value, such as being eco-friendly, you may be a step closer to finding your target audience who may purchase your product.

Competitor Research

Competitor research takes a look at who your competitors are and what are they offering, as well as what they are not offering. You can start by gathering word-of-mouth information, searching online, and walking actual brick-and-mortar stores, as applicable. Figure out who is in your market space, and then find out everything you can about them.

Explore your competitors’ product offerings, features, and pricing. Click through their websites to see how they position and present their products, and review their social media presence and online reviews to see what feedback customers are providing on those products. What you learn can help you determine what to do, and not do, as you develop your product and messaging.

Determine Your Unique Value Proposition

After researching what people need and want as well as what your competitors offer and don’t offer, you can determine your unique value proposition, or UVP. Your UVP fits into the intersection of those customer needs and the gap left by your competitors. The UVP answers the question, “Why should consumers specifically choose your product/company?” Your UVP can be based on product features, your business model or pricing, your customer experience and service, or the values your business embodies. Whatever it is, your UVP is your unique selling position that helps you attract customers in a way your competitors can’t.

Conveying Your Message

As you design your website, social media, advertisements, and other marketing collateral, your UVP should be central to your messaging. Although your UVP may not be explicitly stated, it should be incorporated into it. You can use specificity to back up or demonstrate your implied or stated claims.

A key point to remember is to always be truthful in your claims and statements. If your products or business processes and policies don’t back up what you’re saying, you’ll corrode any trust you have built with your audience and customer base. For example, if your UVP is based on eco-friendly business principles and you advertise a green business certification, you need to maintain the standards for that certification, or you are lying to your audience and risk alienating your customer base when the news comes out.

As you launch your product, continue to assess how your UVP and messaging is resonating with your audience. You can review your analytics to see what is working and where you’re losing potential customers on your website and other sales funnels. You can also try A/B testing emails, ads, and other marketing materials by running two versions of that email or ad at the same time with a single change between them. After running the A/B test, you can review the analytics and determine which performed better, based on your goals. You can look at engagement, conversions, or any metric that matters at that point in the customer journey.

Market research is never really done as your target audience and competitors will change over time. The best research and UVP messaging are open to changes based on continued research and customer feedback.


The information presented here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be, nor should it be construed or used as, comprehensive offering documentation for any security, investment, tax or legal advice, a recommendation, or an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, an interest, directly or indirectly, in any company. Investing in both early-stage and later-stage companies carries a high degree of risk. A loss of an investor’s entire investment is possible, and no profit may be realized. Investors should be aware that these types of investments are illiquid and should anticipate holding until an exit occurs.