So you’ve spotted a market opportunity! There is clear customer need which is under-served and you have a product for this untapped opportunity, hooray! You develop your tech, launch your product and eagerly wait for the orders to come rolling in … but, the problem is, they don’t. After your initial burst of enthusiasm, its become blindingly obvious no-one knows you exist! Your app is hidden on the App store, your Instagram posts get 20 likes (from supportive friends), bloggers took your freebies yet delivered nada and search-engine optimisation has you baffled. You’ve learned the hard way that getting your product front-and-centre of your target market is the really tricky bit.
Recently, an entrepreneur of a health-tech business sought my advice with exactly this problem. She’s developed an app for those with early onset dementia to help with memory loss and socialising. It’s a really great idea and a neat bit of easy to use tech for an under-served consumer group, plus others like it – she’s got angel investors on board and won tech challenge competitions. So why does she now find herself at a crossroads, getting no traction?
While I listened to her story, I started to really think about her target market. On the face of it, her potential consumers are easily identifiable, but are they? The app is for those with early-stage memory loss but the obvious exploitable routes to market – dementia charities or hospitals or care homes – only deal with people with more advanced problems. Moreover, just a quick search on dementia statistics tells me it is very difficult to diagnose in its early stages, slow to progress and prevalent in 1 in 14 aged over 65 in the UK, with 24.6 million people in the UK knowing a family member or close friend with dementia. So far from being easily targetted, this app’s issue is its too mass market and because people can shy away from a memory loss diagnosis – which in itself is complex to make – finding that potential customer at the time when they are open to buying, is more than a tricky problem. Consequentially, I tell her she’ll struggle to get a foot-hold unless she can find a niche entry point.
It’s hard not to feel defeated in such circumstances. A brutal fact is that she hadn’t thought through her route to market enough. So for any entrepreneur with a new idea, before committing too much money, you need to scrutinise the “how” as much as the “why” and the “what”. In the case of this app, there is still an opportunity, but her ability to exploit it will depend on her resources, her resourcefulness and I think, her patience. This market isn’t going away, it just might take ages to get going and she’ll need to keep an eye out for competitors with deep pockets, but there again, they might develop the market for her … but that’s for a whole other story.