Discuss Home · Bootstrapped Podcast · Scribbleton Personal Wiki · HelpSpot Customer Service Software

Perpetually stuck in research mode, surrounded by optimism


#1

I’ve been reading A LOT of market/niche research articles recently and trying to discover some of the most useful ways to determine whether it is a good idea to enter a particular market/niche.

However, what I’ve found is that these goldilocks markets are, obviously, extremely difficult to find. I’ve probably poured 30 hours into research so far, so I’m still at the beginning.

I thought I found a half-decent market today, but there are a good 4-5 competitors on the first page of google, and the same 4 paid ads. Jaaxy says there are only 140 searches a month for this particular keyword, and Google is suggesting £4 bids. The SEO of the competition isn’t that strong and I’m confident I could reach page one for the term. I have an exact match domain available (not sure of use in this 2017).

A lot of the suggestions I’ve read include - write list of passions, determine whether there is demand (some competition is good), determine whether you can reach your initial customers, profit.

Software is becoming more and more saturated and more and more developers are jumping on this bandwagon. It seems the days of being able to identify a decent niche within hours instead of months are gone.

Would really appreciate if somebody could come along and slap me round the face with a reality check.

I know there will always be risk in business, but when do you actually call it quits on research and dive in?


#2

Sounds like you’re there. It’s time. Dive in.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
—Overused proverb that oversimplifies the emotional hurdles you’re facing preventing you from starting, committing, testing, and iterating, but hey there it is anyway so you’re welcome, you can thank me later.

Don’t worry about competition right now. It just doesn’t matter all that much. Competition is a sign of a healthy market, but often not a sign of market oversaturation.

So there are competitors? Awesome! Are those competitors paying money to place ads for low traffic keywords that are easy for you to outrank organically? Yes? Awesome! At a glance, it sounds like there’s money to be made in that niche. Companies rarely do sustained CPC campaigns for niches where the customers are apathetic to making a purchase. Anyway, those are just quick assumptions I’d make about your competitors, based solely on what you wrote above, not knowing your chosen niche. But, it’s very simple to test these assumptions. (I say simple, not to mean it won’t take some work, but conceptually… very simple).

As an entrepreneur, there will never be a perfect time. There will never be an obvious and clear path. There will always be a million things for you to think about, do next, make decisions about. A bazillion tactics. And, with sustained effort, a huge chunk of those tactics will work just fine.

One of those many options you’ll face as an entrepreneur will always be this one: the choice to do absolutely nothing, to sit and navel gaze, to ponder, to worry you’re making a misstep, to over analyze, to keep learning just-in-case rather than just-in-time.

It’s a pocket veto of your ambitions and dreams.

Don’t pocket veto your dreams.

Cross “[ X ] Continue to do nothing.” off your to-do list, because you’re not going to do that anymore. It’s simply not an option for you anymore.

Now, how can you test one single hypothesis this week?

Think of one thing that will help you learn if this niche has real, paying customers that you can help in some way. One test that you can do in the next 5-7 days.

If you want, respond here with that one thing, and we’ll promise to hold you accountable.


#3

I think the keyword research approach to finding a niche for a software product isn’t that useful and if you’re relying on it solely then you’re going to miss the real opportunities.

I have friends doing big business with software in all kinds of niches - manufacturers reps, freelancers, ERP add-ons, mapping, hell - countertop installers! With few exceptions you would never do KW research on these and say “yeah that’s a good idea”.

Nobody searches for my product as a product today unless they already know my company. They search for a problem or a “how to” and hundreds or thousands of tertiary words that I’ve determined they’d be looking for because I understand deeply the problem(s) my customer segments are trying to solve.

If you’re going to sell widgets or some consumer product go all-in on keyword research.

If you’re going to build a software business I would look for a growing or else underserved vertical and figure out what their problems are. They’ll tell you if you ask.

I see a lot of people building things because they’re able to build them and they have a good feeling about it, not because there’s a market that’s dying to have that problem solved.

Talk to a lot of people directly about their business challenges is the best possible advice I can give to finding a “niche”.

The exception I’d offer for this are very specific solutions like this.

I’m ready to be wrong but I’ll tell you that I’m talking with a half dozen prospects per week right now about a new product and there is no keyword research that would have revealed what I’m learning about what their challenges are, what they’re willing to pay to solve them, how they’ve been solving them thus far and what they think about the solutions they’ve attempted.


#4

Hey Ken,

Thanks for the feedback. Good points RE competition and inherent risk.

I’m going to dive into this particular market for a few weeks and see where I end up. There are a few mature solutions at the minute that are attempting to address every conceivable angle and problem and serve many different types of customers.

The plan is to go find out what the most painful problems are for the higher ticket customers and serve those exclusively for now.


#5

That’s a great point RE keyword research.

I guess I was just using it as a way to determine demand, but the competition and paid-ads proves the demand is there. I doubt I’ll determine how great that demand is until I start asking for money.

“Nobody searches for my product as a product today unless they already know my company. They search for a problem or a “how to” and hundreds or thousands of tertiary words that I’ve determined they’d be looking for because I understand deeply the problem(s) my customer segments are trying to solve.”

Thanks! That got me thinking about how I can potentially compete. Not a lot of these other products seem to have a content strategy for marketing. I think I could differentiate by digging deep into potential customers’ problems and solving/writing about those.

“Talk to a lot of people directly about their business challenges is the best possible advice I can give to finding a “niche”.”

That’s what I’ll be doing next. Just need to go find the kinds of businesses I’ll be selling to and get them on the line. Appreciate the feedback.


#6

That’s a bad assumption. Silicon Valley is full of unprofitable startups who have built products and paid for advertising while hoping that customers will turn up before they run out of money. Without inside knowledge of your competitors I wouldn’t make that assumption.

Find someone who would be your ideal customer and talk to them.


#7

Agreed, that appears to be the most sensible thing to do. Having said that, I could evaluate markets for the next 10 years if I really wanted to. I have for the last 6 months. I think I’m just going to jump in and make a bunch of mistakes. I’m not getting any value out of meandering around.


#8

DO: Jump in by talking to some customers.

DON’T: Jump in and make a bunch of mistakes by working on your logo, business cards, and corporation structure.

DON’T: Jump in and make a bunch of mistakes by writing some software that you think they might like once it’s finished.


#9

Exactly my thoughts. Finding and talking to potential customers is the next thing on my list.


#10

Damien, have you finally found your direction?