If you are anywhere near my age, you remember the old Wendy’s commercials with the little old lady asking, “Where’s the beef?” It is an iconic commercial of the 1980’s.

For the last few weeks, the question I have been asking as I work through starting a new business is, “Where’s the market?” I know they exist. I see glimpses of them all around the Internet. I read snippets of their stories on Facebook, Twitter or various blogs. But interacting with them in a meaningful way just isn’t as easy as the various marketing gurus make it sound.

No matter who you listen to that is discussing marketing strategies, they all share the same fundamental advice: Listen to your market.

This sounds easy enough. And probably is, in most scenarios.

But when the market you are looking to serve is significantly different than the market you currently serve, it is much more challenging.

That is where I am!

Learn from the Past

Learning from the past, both successes and failures, is an important entrepreneurial trait. Any honest super-successful entrepreneur will tell you their path was a combination of both. Many times, what they are selling is the success part of the their formula, but I am not quite convinced that is enough. I theorize that it also had some (possibly lots) to do with the timing, size and nature of failures that took place along the way.

Even now as I am starting something new, I am reviewing what has happened before to try and learn all I can. My key learning points I am focusing on at the moment are:

  1. A good product in and of itself is not enough. With very few exceptions, having an excellent product will not make you successful. But good marketing can make you successful, even when your product is not the best. However, combine the two (an excellent product marketed well) and you have a sure-fire winner.
  2. Marketing is not sales. For those of us for whom the concept of sales and marketing does not come naturally, this can be a tough one to get our minds around. Marketing is making the world aware of you and your product’s existence, along with why that is important to them. Sales is getting them to purchase. Good marketing will makes sales easier.
  3. The people you spend the most time with, even in your work world, are probably not in your target market. Most likely they are your peers. As such, they probably don’t have the problems that you are trying to solve for others. You have to change your behaviors if you are going to be able to listen to your market.
  4. Failing is rarely the issue; how you handle it is. We have all kinds of failures all the time, but our perception of them changes everything. Focusing not on the failure, but how we process it, allows us to keep moving forward.
  5. People won’t know how wonderful you and/or your product is unless you tell them. This gets back to marketing 101. But for those of us who are doers, we always assume that people know how to trace the success or cool product back to the source. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. So make noise and take credit. It must be done.

Be Realistic About Today

My goal for the past 2 weeks has been to conduct market research within the new market for which I am trying to enter. Specifically, working with folks wanting to share their knowledge and expertise via online courses and webinars. As I watch and participate in many of these products, I know I could help the presenter share their information more logically and effectively. But currently, that is not who I associate with on a regular basis.

To better find my potential market I am going to try a multi-faceted approach:

  1. Just start doing it … and make connections in the process. This is a bit contrary to #1 above, but it can work if the real goal is not sales, but connections.
  2. Sometimes throwing spaghetti really works. Picking a few areas of focus and trying them all out in a similar fashion may not be the most effective use of time, but it can help define direction. And since time isn’t feeling like a limiting factor, I think it is the right approach.
  3. It is probably staring me in the face, but I am just not seeing it. Although I am generally considered to be very observant, observing oneself is a whole different skill. So I am hoping a change of location and routine will help me see things (including myself) in a new light.

Plan for the Future

I have always been a planner, but probably haven’t been using that skill to its fullest degree in some time. I know I haven’t really invested the time/energy into the planning that needs to go into an endeavor of this magnitude, so I shouldn’t be surprised it hasn’t progressed further. But the time away will allow for that both mentally and physically. All I need to do is not waste it!

So this upcoming week is going to be focused on planning and re-orienting. Not just to the new physical environment, but also to a new business environment and market along with the thoughts and activities that will come with a new business endeavor. And if all goes well, next week, I will be ready to talk about the plan and have an idea of where to find my market!