Discovering multiple market opportunities is very important because not all market opportunities are alike. Some have greater growth potential, whereas others face much less competition, and again others are just markets that one should avoid as they are difficult and costly to enter. Hence, finding a great market opportunity to exploit is a real advantage, as it can provide you with the fertile ground for growing your business and for reaping the greatest value from your innovation! Don’t waste your time with possibly inferior opportunities. Look before you leap!
Additionally, and just as important, once you have identified multiple opportunities, you have a portfolio at hand that offers additional growth possibilities, or the ability to pivot to another market should it become necessary. You can thus unleash the power of multiple opportunities to enhance your agility and maneuverability.
Identifying potential market opportunities is not an easy task. It requires questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking, to understand different customer needs and how you can address them. Ultimately, this structured thinking process opens your mind to different applications that can address different needs of different customers. It actually enhances your cognitive flexibility, so you can be more alert to other promising opportunities.
The result is just as important as the process. Having options at hand not only gives you the power of choosing, but also the power of staying agile. Remember that options are a real asset for your venture, if you know how to leverage them smartly. Hence: One of the main take-aways from this step is that you leave some long held assumptions (such as “this is already the perfect market for me”) behind, verify your beliefs, and explore what else may be in store for you. You will not regret this later.
How to generate your market Opportunity Set?
First, think about your unique abilities or core technological elements – independent of their application in a specific product. In particular, list what these elements can accomplish (their functions) and their main properties.
The whole process starts with getting a good understanding of your unique abilities or your core technology (or technologies, in case you develop multiple ones). Because your unique abilities form the basis from which you will identify your market opportunities, it is of fundamental importance to understand what they can do – what properties they have and what functions they can perform.
For instance, unique abilities can be an important know-how that you or your venture possesses about a specific process, a rare resource that you have developed, or a special capability (such as manufacturing). Technologies can be ‘broken-down’ into core elements based on their unique functionality (such as pattern recognition, for example), or based on their structural design (such as a nanosized camera).
Second, seek out different possible applications that these technological elements can establish, either by combining the elements you listed in different ways, or by adding additional technologies to them. Along these lines, think about who may need these different applications. You can further segment these customer sets to identify even more opportunities!
Once you have listed your core abilities and technological elements, it’s time to think about them creatively, perhaps re-combine them in different possible manners, in order to identify possible applications. An application means a specific usage or function, which you can create with your core technologies and abilities.
As an example, think about Google Glass – the smart eyewear developed by Google X Labs. This wearable computer had several unique technological elements, including eye-tap technology, voice control, smart prism projector, and augmented reality abilities.
This device, which became a catalyst for a huge surge in wearable tech back in 2012, was officially pulled from the market in early 2015. One main reason was that it had been released for consumers without a solidified purpose in mind. Yet, the unique abilities of Google Glass could actually serve many different applications, other than consumers. It could be used for medical purposes, for educational purposes, or for media applications, to name just a few.
Note that you can describe an application in a manner that is detached from any specific customers (e.g., ’environmental monitoring’) or in a way that already signals specific users or the broad market domain (e.g., ‘medical device’).
In sum: This discovery process is extremely important. Be open and discover as many, and as varied, market opportunities as you possibly can! Having 3-5 market opportunities in your Market Opportunity Set is typically a good starting point. We have worked with start-ups that could identify more than 50 market opportunities! So, don’t give up too early.
Excerpted from Where to Play: 3 Steps for Discovering Your Most Valuable Market Opportunities by Marc Gruber and Sharon Tal © Pearson Education Limited 2017 reprinted with permission.