By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, Online Career Tips
Sometimes a hidden business market might be right in front of you, and you may not realize it.
I’ve done freelance work in the past, and I attended the events of over 25 different networking groups. Many of these groups included small business owners who were developing a network of local contacts.
Start a management degree at American Public University.
During these events, I chatted with various people to get to know them. When I brought up the fact that I was a digital marketer and professional blogger, I inevitably heard these sentiments from small business owners:
- “I’d love to put a blog on my website, but I have no idea what I would talk about.”
- “I really don’t get social media. What’s the big deal?”
- “You can’t make money with social media. What’s the ROI?”
To all of these sentiments, I responded, “I’d be happy to explain more about that. Would you be interested in meeting for coffee sometime and talking about it?”
Many of these business owners were willing to meet, even after I explained that I charged an hourly fee for that type of talk. A reasonable price was then set at a rate that made us both happy.
At the time, I didn’t realize that I had tapped into a hidden business market that wasn’t being served in my community. It was someone at my current workplace who later pointed that out to me.
This hidden business market consisted of Generation X and Baby Boomer business owners who were not familiar with digital marketing, blogging, and social media, and who didn’t mind paying for my expertise. I explained these aspects of modern marketing to them in plain, jargon-free language they could easily understand and helped them to comprehend how their businesses could benefit.
Tips for Finding a Hidden Business Market
There are several ways to find a hidden business market in your community. First, attend local networking events held by your local chamber of commerce or a business association such as Business Network International (BNI).
In my experience, people inevitably bring up their business pains in conversations during these events. Listen attentively for statements such as “I wish I could….” or “I’d love to do that, but I don’t know how.” Then, let those people know of your willingness to assist them. They may hire you or provide a referral to someone else you can help.
Second, do research online and at local libraries to make sure that there is sufficient interest among potential customers in what you have to offer. Businesses often fail in the long term because their owners have not done sufficient research to ascertain if there is enough of a market to sustain their businesses or because they underestimate the amount of their competition. Know your demographics and your competition, and have a clear idea of who you will serve.
Third, have good business stories to tell, so potential customers clearly understand how you differ from your competitors. This is where business storytelling comes in handy. During a networking event, tell a memorable, even humorous story about a customer you helped, which may make your listener think, “Hey, this is good. I’d like to hire you!”
Focus on Helping People
When you are looking for a new, hidden business market, concentrate on being helpful and offering solutions to the problems a customer has, rather than being aggressive. Today’s customers prefer customization to their needs and a relationship with a company they can trust. They are far less receptive to high-pressure, insistent sales tactics that worked in the past.
Above all, remain alert to new business opportunities. You may end up serving a niche market or a wider, national market, but being agile and adapting what you offer to meet customer needs can go a long way in getting your business off the ground.