South Africa
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The importance of targeting the right market

For your start-up to survive, you need to put your resources in the right direction to find your target market. Get it right, and you could tap into endless possibilities. Get it wrong, and the consequences could be damaging to your business.

It’s easy to come up with a great product and have big plans for it, but not having an in-depth understanding of your audience could lay it all to waste. Researching the market, knowing who you’ll appeal to and who your competitors are, will not only give you a view of the landscape but also highlight opportunities that can be tapped into.

“When I started out with Nic Harry, I was my biggest customer. I created my entire business on the premise that there were people like me in the world who wanted to wear incredibly comfortable and daringly bright socks. I figured that people like me, men who enjoyed style and were tired of boring socks, were looking for something new and different. So I began to research”, says Nicholas Haralambous.

Haralambous initially did research online to understand the market for men wanting socks that stand out, but he also did real-world research, all in the quest to learn as much as he could about his target market:

“I visited popular coffee shops and malls and walked around. A lot. I spent hours at airports when I was travelling and public parks looking at people’s feet to see what socks they were wearing and if there was a spark to be seen. All through this initial process, I hadn’t produced a product. I was researching and finding my market. Then I launched and started selling socks. And trust me when I say that when you have a product in the market you learn new things all the time about who is buying your product and why.

Niche, big niche or mass market

There’s an interconnection between your target market and your business. Who you are targeting will influence your brand positioning, as well as the product itself. It’s also important to know what’s going on around your target market. What are your competitors doing, is there a quality battle and where do you fall: mass market, premium, niche, luxury or something completely different.

Haralambous says, “When I started selling socks, I hadn’t thought about women buying socks for men. Today women make up a large chunk of our customer base. I couldn’t have seen this shift (because I was singularly focused at the time) when I launched because I was building a men’s brand for men”.

Things change and it’s better to adapt and grow than to stagnate. If your model needs to shift slightly, embrace it make the best of it. You must plan your business, product and target market carefully, but also leave room for movement.

Everything to everyone

While you want to reach the widest audience, it would be a mistake to not be focused enough.

“A mistake that I have been on the brink of making a few times and that I see many young brands make is ignoring your niche, your market and your community. You don’t want to be everything to everyone”, implores Haralambous.

It’s perfectly acceptable to offer a specific product or service to a specific market. It doesn’t need to be for everyone all the time. Stay the course, keep it simple and effective. Your role is to know your market and pursue them relentlessly.