November 16, 2015

TorontoStarts Dare To Differentiate

Finding my niche in a new market is an exciting journey. Here I will share my personal experience as an entrepreneur arriving and living in Toronto over the past months. I hope this article will be relevant as you also embark on this journey.

All startups need to think about a lot of details – Is there a market for my service? What are the markets’ needs and dynamics? Do I have the right marketing strategy? How do I manage customer and vendor relations? Do I have what it takes to compete? Can I reach my target segment? What about pricing? – and the list goes on.

In addition to these questions, I had to decide if I needed to adopt a Push / Pull strategy.

Under the Pull strategy I would seek a market with a need and develop a service that best meets that need. In this case, I would let the market determine and shape my service offering. On the other hand, I could also push my service into the market and compete with other players within the specific market segment.

It was also important for me to understand the demand side of the equation as I define the supply side. I needed to find a critical gap in the market to exploit. A better understanding of your target market will help you create a better business strategy.

How to get to find the right answers?

The key here is to gather as much information about customers, competitors, economy and regulations, if any. This can be done by employing the following techniques:

Market research can be the difference between success and failure. It is an iterative process where you are continuously analyzing the information you gather. Ideally you should start your research even before you land. You will not get the full picture, but at least you have started the process. Here are a few recommendations to help you with your market research.

Online research, Networking and Social media

Online searches can reveal much information about your potential customers and suppliers – and of course your competitors. It is critical to know if there are potential customers who have a need for your services and more importantly, whether they will pay the price or fees you set. Here are some useful resources to get you started:

Networking is very critical to understanding the market, especially for newcomer entrepreneurs. I would suggest to locate and join events/communities focused on startups and entrepreneurship. They provide an excellent opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs and facilitate an excellent collaboration environment. Meetup groups are good point to start networking.

Social media is one of the most useful tools at your disposal when it comes to getting a large volume of quick Information about customers, competitors etc. Most importantly it is free. I would recommend different social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Make sure to join forums and group related to your target market and get involved in relevant discussions.

Starting your business isn’t an easy task, and in a new market, it is even harder. A comprehensive market research was what I needed. I knew that I have to do some research before taking any step. I had to figure out if there was a demand for my service. I needed to do an analysis and come up with a plan which differentiated my service offering.

A closing remark – the number one lesson that I hope you with take away from this article is to take your time and don’t rush. Be open to explore new ideas and possibilities. Collect information and seek feedback from different sources. Choose the most cost-effective research methods. Get a mentor or an advisor to help you from the beginning.

Last but not least, don’t panic! If the outcome of your research is different from what you expected, adjust your thoughts and don’t forget, you are in a different market.

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About the Author

TorontoStarts now supports over 22,000 active entrepreneurs in the GTA and has grown to the largest startup community in Canada. With a reach of over 120,000+ followers across our platforms, The Startup Coach has hosted over 700 startup events, courses and workshops and spoken in front of over 70,000 entrepreneurs. Working with startups all day every day Craig has personally coached over 600 startups, judged over 100 pitch competitions, and helped companies raise over $60 million.

The Startup Coach

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