The Truth About Your Latest Idea: It Likely Sucks! Here’s Why…

As entrepreneurs, we all think we are “in touch” with our target market.

When we create and offer products and services, we do so with the implicit belief that we have a good handle on what our market wants, what our market needs, and what price our market is willing to bear.

This confidence can come from researching and surveying the market or seeing competitors succeed in our vertical. But for many entrepreneurs, this fundamental sense of understanding comes from being actually a part of the market and reflecting on our own needs, wants, and price points.

Yet if we know so much about our target market, why do so many of us fail?

Yes, I said it. Many entrepreneurs fail – including me.

The Beat Of Your Own, Lonely Drummer

Last summer, I had an idea for an online video series about making money doing what you love. I was convinced it was going to be a huge success and would yield enough returns for me to live on for months while building a fan base of adoring followers who would loyally buy all of my future products. I wasted no time and dedicated all my resources to crafting this product that I believed would really put me on the map.

My first video offering in the series was an hour long and included fancy PowerPoint illustrations and fun graphics. The download came with two worksheets and access to a series of free informational emails. I priced it at $49.99 USD, and cultivated a core of launch affiliates to help me spread the word.

Launch day came…and went. With one sale.

In fact, one sale was the only sale of the video I ever made.

I never made a follow-up video, and I took the site and all related materials down after eight months because I was – and honestly, still continue to be – so utterly embarrassed by how huge a failure this initiative turned out to be.

My embarrassment was so acute not just because I failed, but because I had so clearly failed to understand the needs, wants, and price point of my target market. I built the entire product around what I would buy and used only that measurement to guide the product, promotion, and sales copy.

What it came down to was that I was really out of touch with the needs, wants, and price point of my target market.

Solace In Numbers

I was reminded of this unflattering event this afternoon when I was talking to a friend who works in development consulting. Over the course of our conversation, they revealed that they were a little confounded by a market revelation they had:

“I can’t believe it, Nacie – I’ve been planning to sell this new service for $50,000 and just heard from a sales lead that they – and no one they know – would consider paying no more than $3,000 for it. I guess it shows how out of touch I’ve gotten with what [the market] would buy…”

The worst part – or the most comforting part – is that my friend and I aren’t alone in such gross miscalculations of our target market needs, wants, or price points. Think about Dean Kamen, the creator of Segway scooters – when these gyro-scooters were first launched in a massive expose on Good Morning America in 2001, they had been heralded as “an invention bigger than the internet and the PC” that were supposed to “revolutionize city planning…and create an upheaval in several existing industries.”

Yet ten years later, in the United States they are little more than punchlines to mall cop jokes. In fact, in 2010 the Segway made the top of Time Magazine’s 50 worst inventions of all time (subprime mortgages and pop-up ads also made the list).

How could an invention that seemed like such a captivating, good idea fall so hard on its face?

Because (say it with me now) it was out of touch with the needs, wants, and price point of its target market.

Staying In Touch With Your Market

Over the years, I’ve observed that losing touch with your target market coincides with becoming too submerged and surrounded by early adopters or industry peers.

Translation: entrepreneurs lose touch by spending all their time in an ideological bubble.

When most of your daily interactions are with people in your field or who are already loyal followers of your brand, you start to think, create ideas, and receive feedback in a biased bubble of influence. You are talking to the small percentage of your potential market who already “get it” and don’t need to be sold – their needs, wants, and price point align likely with yours, meaning that your suggestions or prototypes are met with positive reinforcement.

Take my failed video series – I sent the prototype to about a dozen people who already “drank the KoolAid” of my brand for feedback, endorsements, and affiliate help. They all raved about it, leading me to believe that once the product went live it would receive similar praise from the larger market. Nope.

Consider my friend – he is a savvy business man with a booming small business. Before sharing the $50k price point with a sales lead, he floated the service and cost by his close business network and received positive feedback, leading him to believe that the price would be equally accepted by the market at large. Heck No.

And once again, let’s revisit our friend the Segway – I don’t know the details of this case personally, but I can imagine that no one would be able to book a product to launch on Good Morning America (a huge, national morning show) without a bevy of endorsements and positive support, which led the producers to think the product had legs. Capital N-O.

The problem is that for most of our industries, enough money to call a living (let alone a flourishing business) doesn’t come from selling to a small (likely saturated) percentage of our super fans and industry colleagues…it comes from successfully selling to a broader market percentage and even into demographics beyond our target markets. And to do that, we need to stay in touch with our non-KoolAid drinking targets.

“How?” you ask. The answer is simpler than you’d think: take time to unplug from your blog, email, social network, and business contacts. Instead, have some casual, face-to-face conversations with people you meet on a daily basis – at the school drop-off or in the market or at the coffee shop or even at home – about their needs, wants, and price points as consumers. Share your business offerings and ask for their authentic feedback.

Because the sooner you can get out of your ideological bubble, the faster you can get back in touch with your target market and kick your sales into high gear.

Here’s to your Entrepreneur’s Journey,


About Nacie Carson

Nacie Carson is a freelance writer and founder of The Life Uncommon, a career evolution and entrepreneurship community.
Her work on careers and authenticity have been featured in over 200 media outlets, including, WalletPop, and two editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Nacie's first book on career "fitness" will be in stores in April 2012. You can contact her via nacie(@)TheLifeUncommon.Net

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  • Brilliant post. The most revealing and fresh post I’ve read in a long time.

    Sometimes we get lost in numbers, marketing strategies, etc and when we don’t get the expected result we look around surprised and with absolutely no clue about what happened.

    It’s so simple and yet so difficult to realise that we have to be in touch with our customer real needs.

    Thanks for this post.


  • Nice article Nacie

    I remember reading a story about the guy’s that started Amyway. I believe their first Amyway meeting consisted of 2 people on a rainy night in Georgia. Two out of a couple hundred would be consider a failure, but they didn’t give up.

    I wish I could find some info on how to start a successful facebook page in a detailed format. How to draw fans, advertising, page setup etc.


  • Nacie,

    I have to tell you, I experienced the exact same thing roughly 8 years ago with a product I created for network marketers. At the time, my judgment was clouded by the market research I had done (I focused on potential volume size rather than need and discounted the fact that network marketers are generally an insular group.)

    6 months of work made me a little under $100. It was definitely a definitive moment for me.

    Where I think that most entrepreneurs discount the most is the partnerships or affiliates that are needed to promote new products, especially if the entrepreneur is an unknown and unproven within the market. The musing that you can build something (even if it is great and will help people) without the help of others to promote it or your own personal network is a hard pill to swallow.

    And of course, there is what you said- Discounting the actual wants and desires of the segment you are targeting in the first place.

    Anyhoo….those are my thoughts.

  • Nacie don’t you know that there is no such thing called failure. Sure that product launch didn’t meet your expectations but it was not a failure.

    I’m sure that you learned a lot going through that experience and now you’re better off for your next launch. You now hopefully know what worked, what didn’t and where to improve. As well that 1 sale product is available to sweeten the deal as a bonus on your next product or promotion. You’ve built an asset that you can use in the future so that is not a failure.

    Also the bar has been steadily raised within the make money online industry. There is market saturation as far as information and training goes. There is tons of quality information on blogs and forums. Plenty of free ebooks and video courses as well.

    There are 2 areas of the industry that should be targeted and which are not yet saturated. One is software or tools and the other is coaching or hand holding.

    Right now experts charge $250 plus per hour but there is a large market of people that can’t afford that price. Try starting at $25 per hour and as you get busier upscale your income and client base by charging more. If your coaching produces results for your clients they should be willing to pay more as their success and revenue increases.

    As far as software goes what newbie isn’t willing to press the easy button? Ethically I wouldn’t do this but how about software that increases traffic to start-up blogs by link building (spamming) methods. Of course you would market the software under the guise of SEO. Easy right.

  • What is the saying — failures brings lessons and success has a thousand fathers…

  • Great information Nacie I have had this happen a couple of times. I started a site and targeted it at a certain demographic only to find another was more interested. I was at first fighting with the new interested demographic because I presumed the other would be more interested. I always say never trust instinct it is not until you have your product or service out in the wild that you can actually find out the truth about your market. But you still should do market research as it gives you a loose overview of the market that you are going to enter.

  • It is really so, get out of your ideological bubble as soon as possible.

  • Good ideas are great – it just takes a lot of research to make sure the idea (or product) is one that has a market.

  • Wow… your story of the powerpoint failure reminds me of my own history. Even if it was a failure I’m sure you learned a lot from it as well.

    Your right, people get caught up in their own work and forget about why they are doing it in the first place. It’s about the people they are targeting. Sometimes taking a step back and getting market feedback is not only necessary but essential to your success.

  • Thanks so much for being vulnernable to share this, Nacie. I *just* had a 1-sale experience after a ton of work myself.

    It’s sure humbling, but it partially highlights exactly what you said: it’s easy to get lulled into thinking something is good based on feedback from several friends and industry peers. Gotta go past that — even though it’s uncomfortable.

  • I agree with you Nacie .I had a similar experience when i started my first website .It was a dating website but i had a very rosy picture of dating industry and it was totally a disaster.You need to feel what your target market wants

  • Ron


    I’m getting the pin out right now,
    can you see me doing circles around the room.

    Phew, thats better,

    cheers Ron

  • Hi Nacie,

    In the past I have reviewed others products and yes they are friends but I have to say there are a few of them that come to me becase I tell them as I see it.

    If I think it stinks I tell them rather than giving them hope, even down to they layout of the pages at times and in some cases I have done the work for them to fix any problems they have.

    I try not to find what’s good with it first but try to seek out and distroy the bad, that’s just me though, I guess they could go to someone else and get told that it’s the best thing since sliced bread and be happy with that view.

    I am by no means an expert but I do it this way to try and help them in the long run to avoid similar dissapointment as yourself.

    Every time you fail you are just that much closer to succeeding, as long as you putting in the effort.

    Thanks for a great article and it has got my thinking of who to ask in future for advice.


  • Hello Nacie,

    Thanks for your post, I do know a funny story about intensive Market Research done for Garden Hoses, with detailed information about Garden Sizes, re-buy frequency and things like that, only Strangly enough

    ‘The Garden Hose Sales appeared
    to be extremely much higher than calculated…!!!’

    It appeared that a much bigger market could be found on Building Locations where when – Heavy Trucks – frequently damaged ‘Garden’ Hoses resulting in ordering much bigger amounts of Hoses than any Household or Garden Owner would ever order in their lifetime! 🙂 In this case it was definitely interesting to also look at a broader market.

    Although I do think that the answer might also possibly lay in staying in touch with your market and keep on getting more and more attractive for your market. For what your video is concerned, some time ago I heared in a Teleseminar about ‘Moving the Free-Line’ and how somebody had a lot of content freely available on his blog while also having the same content bundled in products for sale, and it appeared that even when people could find the content for free on this blog there where people buying his products.

    That might be something you could do with your Video? (talking about really actually ‘Getting in Touch with your Market’.) For example have an hour long video cut into 4x 15 minutes posts on your blog, for people to have a look at and at the same time the one hour video also as a one time download for sale.
    Even when you have people that don’t want to buy the one time download the might buy future products?

    All the Best,
    To your Happy – Home Business – Inspiration,

  • Very informative post indeed.

    What’s interesting about your experience is that many people including myself at times have had exactly the same experience… as affiliates.

    Market research, demographics and just good old fashioned conversations with people in general will lay a far better foundation for success than just listening to that small intimate group of KOOL-AID drinkers.

    Thanks for sharing,

  • You still could get some benefit from that product – I would suggest to offer it for free as a lead gen piece. Split it into small logical parts – upload it to YouTube, you said the product was good so people should see the value when they get to interact with it for free, then lead them from YouTube to your website/blog, offer them more value if they sign up for your list, become your fan on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, it will most likely not lead to a immediate sale but you will gain more followers, who will buy from you later.

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