The Target Market For Your Invention Can Determine Success or Failure

Is Your Invention a Cabbage or a Truffle?

Is your invention a cabbage or a truffle?

Almost every new product has people who will buy it. But what does it cost to harvest them? What does it cost to:

  1. Make them aware of your new product and then,
  2. Convert them into a buyer?

1 and 2 together are the "conversion cost." If the cost is too high, the product is unprofitable, even if there are people who want to buy it. Thinking about conversion cost got me to thinking about cabbages and truffles. Cabbages are grown in neat rows and can be harvested by machines for minimal cost per head of cabbage. But truffles cannot be grown on a farm and have to be hunted down in the wild. The cost of the ingredients that go into growing either a cabbage or a truffle are essentially zero. But the costs of harvesting are vastly different.

If your product sells for a high price with a fat profit margin, it's fine for it to be a truffle. But if your item is low cost, then it needs to be a cabbage: the target market needs to be large and easy to harvest.

"Target market" means a group of people with shared characteristics. With regard to conversion cost, it means a group that can be efficiently targeted with advertising. If you're selling an accessory for pick-up trucks, you don't want to waste ad dollars on telling people who drive sedans about it.

Most inventors think they know their target market when they start work on their invention. That's certainly the case when their invention is for a trade or for professional use. But when it comes to consumer products things are often less clear. Sometimes a product that's intended to be a cabbage can find a better target market as a truffle; there may be a specific, small, group of people willing to pay 2X-10X more for the product than consumers on average. Turning your cabbage into a truffle could spell the difference between success and failure.

A survey is a great way to learn how consumers feel about your product, to identify possible target markets and opportunities. Learn more about surveys here.

- Mike

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