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"Save Thousands of Dollars"

by Dave Balch, "The Stay-at-Home CEO"™

(c) 2000, A Few Good People, Inc.

Let’s review.  In my last column, I suggested that if you are really interested in being your own boss and starting a home-based business you have to do more than dream; you have to start.   Where?  Make a plan.  It doesn’t have to be complicated and you can change it at any time, but you must start!  The first part of your plan is to decide on a business.    Choose something that you love to do, and think about, and talk about.   Don’t choose a business based on income potential; money will make you comfortable but not happy.  Do something you enjoy and do it better than anyone and the money will follow.

Now that you’ve decided on a general type of business, ask yourself this question:  “Who cares?”  In other words, is anyone interested in this product or service besides yourself?  This is called “defining your target market”.  Is there really a need out there or is this just something you’d like to do because it’s fun?  Ideally, it will be fun for you, valuable for others and, this is critical, wanted by a group of people that you can identify and reach.  Many small businesses make one or both of the following critical mistakes:  their target market is too large or their product or service is not wanted. 

If you think you’ve got it made because your product or service appeals to everyone, think again.  If your market is everyone, your market is no one.  This is because of the incredible expense of marketing to everyone.  Unless your funds are unlimited, you just can’t do it.  I know it sounds backwards, but the narrower you can focus your market, the easier it will be to reach them.

For example, let’s say you would like to make craft items for pet owners.  The “pet owner” market is pretty big; narrow it to “dog owners”.  That’s still pretty big; try narrowing to “Poodle owners”.  It will be much easier to market intensely to this smaller group.

But does your market want your product?  Want, not need.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because there is a need that there is a want.  A ton of money has been spent on products that people should want but, as it turned out, they don’t.  In our example, you have some specific items in mind because you know you’d love them, but that isn’t enough; you must find out if others would want them as well.  And, if they would be willing to pay enough to make it worth your while; if not, why not.  Do some research: make up a questionnaire and do a survey of people in your target market.  In our example, that would be Poodle owners.  Ask questions to find out if they would be interested in your items, how much would they pay, do they know of any competition and if so, details about it, what features would they find irresistible, etc.   Narrow your market and do your research early and save thousands of dollars.

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