Markets vs. Ideas: Where Should Your Business Start?
There’s a lot that goes into choosing the mentality that is going to guide your efforts as a startup just getting off the ground. We’ve talked before about whether you should be valuing the idea or your ability to execute on it more. The question of whether to put markets or ideas first is similar, but rather than emphasizing particular aspects of development, it is much more about choosing the mindset that will drive you from square one.
And in many ways, it’s much harder to decide which mentality is the right one.
Putting Ideas First
Emphasizing ideas is a mentality that is naturally consumer-oriented. You start with a question or a problem that you have in your own life and look for a way to solve that problem. Maybe it’s a problem that you’re not having, but one you see others struggling with. Either way, this is a very consumer-based way of thinking.
There’s nothing wrong with working this way. There are whole business methodologies that sing the praises of thinking like the customer and always putting the customer’s interests first. However, there is a right and wrong way to go about it.
It’s true that customers are often looking for the quick and obvious solution. Henry Ford’s famous quote about faster horses is the ultimate argument to that effect. Customers don’t always see the innovative solution that is genuinely viable and genuinely game-changing.
Consumers want a solution now and they want a solution that is going to benefit them. It’s a very me, me, me way of thinking. For the consumer, that makes perfect sense. That’s exactly what they’re supposed to do. Why buy into anything if not to benefit yourself? You have to think a little bit differently as the developer, however.
Instead of beginning your startup journey by asking yourself or others what the quickest and easiest path to success is, you should begin by thinking about who you can help and what you can make to help them. It’s about putting others first instead of obsessing over what will make you the most money. Going into it with a mentality to help others often leads to more money and more success anyway.
Putting Markets First
Thinking about markets first is more about thinking like a producer. Advocates of this strategy believe that there are problems with customer-centric thinking. If you think too much about ideas and solutions then there’s no way to divorce yourself from that me, me, me mentality.
Get rich quick and easy money are just the developer’s version of consumer thinking that is so focused on instant gratification. Your focus instead should be targeting specific markets that have an opening for you to slot in, rather than obsessing over the perfect product.
You find that market in need first. That’s always the first step, and after that, you identify the problem they’re facing and begin to develop a solution. Make a list of those problems that people in that market are talking about, pick the one you know you can answer, and build your product that will get the job done.
Some of the problems may not necessarily need solving. Some may not have a solution that is feasible for whatever reason or another, but when you start with markets, you know you will have a lot of problems to pick and choose from. That’s why this strategy is often so successful.
Which Path Do You Choose?
There are valid arguments for both of these strategies and so much about which mentality you choose is going to depend a lot on your particular situation. Ultimately, it’s all about finding the best way to reach the customer. If you have an idea that you know is going to help people then it should be at the center of everything you do If you’ve found a market that needs a business to fill it then that’s the way to go.