One of the most important things to look out for in a competitive market is weakness. You’re looking for weakness in your competitors’ products and approach. The goal is to find needs that the customers have that aren’t being met adequately by anyone in the marketplace. If you can cater to those needs, you’ll take a significant market share.
==> Look for Common Customer Complaints
Look on internet forums, message boards, discussion boards and even in your own support ticket system.
What kind of complaints do customers commonly have? If people are regularly complaining about something, chances are there’s a solution you could offer to solve that problem.
For example, say you run a language school. You notice that a lot of people complain about their skills sliding backwards during summer vacation. So, you can use that market weakness to offer Skype lessons to help people stay sharp even when they’re not coming to class.
==> Don’t Be Afraid to Pick Up the Phone
There’s a lot of valuable feedback you can only get from one on one interactions with people in your target market.
Proctor and Gamble goes as far as to actually send teams of people to interview customers. They’ll also film customers using their products, just to get the nuanced details about how people use and don’t use products.
You don’t have to go that far. But being willing to pick up the phone and have a conversation about their unmet needs can go a long way.
==> Look for Gaps in Price Points
If your whole market is only serving the $400 to $2,000-a-month market, see if you can create a $50-a-month product. If your whole market caters only to the lower range, see if there’s a premium range you can cater to.
Very often different pricing indicates a completely different segment of the market. The type of person who pays $50 a month is very different than the person who pays $500 a month. By catering to another price group, you essentially add a whole pool of new potential customers to your market.
==> When You Spot a Need…
What if you spot a need that nobody has filled, but there’s also no evidence that what you’re thinking about has any chance of working?
There’s something comforting about doing a product that others have already done before. If you’re pioneering, however, the perceived risk can be a lot higher.
This is a time when you have to decide how much you trust your intuition. Steve Jobs never did much market research – there was no way to know if people would want the iPod or the iPad, since no such device really existed before. He spotted a need, trusted that people would want it and created the product.
You can do the same. Sometimes, when you spot a weakness, it takes audacity to make the jump to fill that weakness, especially if nobody else has done it before.