Remember the old television commercials for Rolaids? The tag line was "Rolaids spells relief." The man or woman in the ad had a real problem - serious heartburn pain, which could be alleviated by eating some Rolaids. And with 10's of millions of heartburn sufferers, the makers of Rolaids had a large market opportunity.
Some time ago, I pitched what I thought would be a hot new web-based service. One of the people whom I believed would be a natural user and booster of the service failed to see the value. His response? "Sounds like a hammer in search of a nail." I had an idea in search of a market rather than a real market opportunity.
The success of Rolaids illustrates some important principles about product and service development:
1. Utilize market research to uncover unmet customers needs, i.e. real problems which cause real pain and therefore need real solutions (which people will pay for).
2. Determine the size of the market opportunity. How else can you determine whether the costs of developing the product or service will be justified by the likely sales?
3. Focus your efforts on problems which have large market opportunities. That's where the profits are.
4. Be disciplined. Finding large market opportunities takes some work. Don't settle for the first Idea that comes along. Look for the real winners.