Vision of the Future and Ideas are good. But at some stage, we need to convert that into customers who will pay us money. This constitutes the target market. Two excellent references for thinking about high-tech markets are Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” and “Inside the Tornado.”
Let’s first begin with Moore’s definition of what constitutes a market:
- a set of actual or potential customers
- for a given set of products or services
- who have a common set of needs or wants, and
- who reference each other when making a buying decision
The last point above is very important and something we tend to forget. Customers (individuals and corporates) tend to talk to others before making a buying decision. This word-of-mouth element is very critical. It is what helped us at IndiaWorld build the readership for Samachar without ever advertising it! Create something that people like, and they will tell others about it. Advertising can only get people once to a website, it is the quality of the site itself and its attractiveness which will get them back again – and again.
More talks about the Technology Adoption Life Cycle, and the different market segments which exist: Innovators (Tech Enthusiasts), Early Adopters (Visionaries), Early Majority (Pragmatists), Late Majority (Conservatives) and Laggards (Skeptics).
The strategies to be followed to target each of these segments is quite different, and in some cases, the opposite of what was used to target the previous group.
Opportunities and markets do not go away, so it is not critical to necessarily be the first to target specific segments. What is important is to do it right. It is very important to understand the mindset of the customer. Many times, we create things and imagine markets where none exist – because we fall in love with our Idea or technology. One has to be realistic. Inertia is one of the single biggest challenges that you will ever encounter – and it can work both ways: for you if you are the incumbent, and against you if you are trying to wean people away or change their habits.
In the case of IndiaWorld, what made a big difference in our early days was my experience of having been in the US. I had lived as an NRI for 4 years, and NRIs were our initial target market. When I had to make the choice between creating a narrow service (say, focused on business) or a broader news, information and entertainment service, I chose the latter despite advice to the contrary from many people I met. My thinking was that a “thali” approach would work well with NRIs who had no more than 5-minutes for India everyday and we wanted to maximise the portion of that time that was spent with us. Only later did we specialise into verticals.