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Marketing – Is your Business Idea built on Market Research or a Hunch?

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I know that when I started thinking about ‘going on my own’ so to speak, the initial idea was born out of absolute frustration and boredom.

I had been working in the same Group for over 10 years and for the last 4 of those years, I had been doing exactly the same thing, day after day. Seeing the same people day after day, and finding the same mistakes and theft and fraud and . . yip, I was doing exactly what I do now (being an Internal Auditor), but my work life had reached a plateau. There was no longer a challenge, I was as high up in the Company as I would ever be able to go and quite honestly I felt really burnt out.

There were two options available to me, to find another position at another Company or ‘go on my own’.

Moving to another Company
When I sat down and really thought about this option, it took all of about 30 seconds to dismiss it. It wasn’t that I was unhappy with my current employers. I was well paid, highly respected and highly regarded – it was, well quite honestly it was the lack of challenge. How long would it take for me to reach this same “space”, if I took a job at another Company – I really didn’t think it would take too long at all. So this option fell right off the table.

Going on my own
The first time I even dared to look at this option, I thought I was going to have a heart attack! I mean for goodness sake, what on earth did I know about starting and running a business. Sure as an Internal Auditor, I knew how to put the processes and procedures in place, but put them in place of ‘what kind of business’? As head of the Department, I knew how to manage staff and I was also acutely aware of all the pitfalls associated with HR and the Labour Relations Act – I had certainly “Chaired” enough disciplinary hearings and dismissed enough staff over the years to understand the implications. But even if I did have staff, what good would they be to me if I didn’t even know what kind of business I wanted. So that idea also got shelved – for a while anyway, but it came ‘a-knocking’ from time to time.

The more I thought about what I wanted to do, the more frustrated I became. I was literally ‘clueless’! Time went by and slowly but surely this little idea started to germinate. Why couldn’t I do exactly what I was doing now – but out there in the big wild world. Why couldn’t I do “Internal Auditing” for little companies?

Now at this point, had I resigned and just done it, I can assure you that nothing would have come of it and this brilliant idea of mine would have gotten me nowhere. Why, you may ask? Simple really, I had no idea if there was a ‘need’ for my kind of service. Just because I thought that it was a good idea, didn’t mean it was so! I had a vague idea of who my target market should be, but because I thought that they may need my services, didn’t mean that my potential clients wanted my services.

So I did what I knew best how to do – I started investigating (also known as market research). I spent many hours trawling the internet, looking to see if there was anyone else out there who was doing what I do – there wasn’t. Now that could mean one of two things, either it was because there was no need for the service, or alternatively it was because no-one had thought of the idea before.

It was time to check my target market – fortunately I have a great number of friends who are Entrepreneurs and as SMME’s they fall into exactly the market that I wanted to test. The internet also provided me with a huge amount of material and information as to exactly what was available and what wasn’t. The result was that there was a huge need of what I could provide and either no-one else had thought about it, or alternatively no-one else had the skills with which to do it. All of this research and ‘investigating’ took over three years to accomplish and the result of this is that I have now been ‘on my own’ since 2003.

So what is the point of this story – it’s really quite simple, if your business idea is built solely upon a ‘hunch’ or ‘an idea’, in all probability you will fail. This is because no matter how ‘in love’ you are with your product or service and no matter how passionate you feel about it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the ‘real’ market out there will share your enthusiasm.

Look at what the statistics prove – hundreds of businesses start up every day – that’s not a bad thing at all, but hundreds of businesses close their doors and go out of business each day too and that is not a good thing. Yes not all of them go out of business because they failed to do their market related research, but a great number of them never even get off the ground and huge amounts of money, blood, sweat and tears result in everything being lost.

You have to put in the research and also test the market. I had 3 clients before I even resigned from my job. Without the research being done, you will have no idea if your service, product or idea has any chance of being sustainable.

Rather start out as you mean to continue – slowly, steadily and sustainably.