Power of Understanding the Market Needs

Would you put a plaster on your big toe if your thumb is painful?

The journey from ideation to success hinges greatly upon one crucial factor: understanding market needs and trends. This vital cornerstone not only guides the generation of new ideas but also shapes the trajectory of startups toward growth that they can sustain.

So why is it so important?

It’s perhaps also one of the biggest reasons why startups fail. Asides from the number one reason being to not actually START, not understanding the need of the market is an absolute deal breaker.

And it’s possibly the hardest thing you’ll have to do in your business.



  1. You need to get out and ask people about their needs. That’s scary. You have to ask friends or family or even strangers how they feel about the problem you are identifying and what they think about your solution. This can be received very positively (sometimes even misguided and not actually helping you), or it can be negative which leaves you open to criticism. And nobody likes that. It makes you feel like you are failing. Like your idea is bad or your solution is stupid. We’ve all been there.
  2. The second reason is failing to understand the real need and drawing conclusions based on your own biases. Example: you managed to get over your fear of talking to strangers and asked them about the pain points they experience on their way to work in the morning. Your idea is to have a pop-up coffee trailer on a street corner which sounds like a fantastic idea to all of your friends, so you ventured out and asked some strangers. You received an overall positive response for a coffee station with a lot of people mentioning that something close to a school for parents to pick up a cup of coffee on their way to work would be great. Or at least at a point where there is less traffic to worry about. But you actually had a pop-up coffee trailer in mind in front of your house because then you don’t have to rent any space or ask for permission. The overall positive feedback is boosting your confidence and you tell your friends that your market research has shown that people really want a cup of coffee in the morning on their way to work.Three months later you don’t understand why you are not getting the traffic you expected. All these people said yes, so where are they now?They are all waiting for you close to the school, that’s where they are. Because your house is not close to the school, it is deep into the suburbs so not easy to reach, and they have to cross a robot that has high congestion. In essence, the barriers to overcome are not worth the effort to get a cup of coffee. People will rather go without it.

Does this ring a bell? How many people do you know have done this exact same thing? Don’t we all know someone (or perhaps YOU are that person – I have definitely been there) with lots of ideas that never come to fruition. Fair enough, sometimes life gets in the way and time and family commitments etc. are making it really hard to be successful. But sometimes it’s also just in our head and the way we approach things.

When it comes to the market needs, there is one thing you should realise:


Not in the least. Inherently every person is selfish and will always choose the option that benefits them in some way. If your solution only benefits you and your pocket, nobody else will care. Move obstacles out of the way for people and they will come running to you.

And yes, easier said that done. That is what all the gurus are telling us but in reality it can be really difficult to fully understand the customer needs purely because the customers often don’t understand their own needs! They know when a pain point is relieved and can tell you that your solution is amazing, but ask them to articulate their problem and they either waffle some vague facts or stare at you blankly.

By Author on Midjourney

My motto in life is: Always assume the customer is dumb and lazy.

Perhaps not the nicest way to put it but can you really disagree with this statement? If I’m being nice I will rephrase it “Always assume the customer doesn’t understand and is willing to exert minimal effort.”

It boils down to the fact that it is a common challenge for founders to understand the problem based on their customers’ description, and it is up to you to better interpret the problem and design the solution so that it is so obvious to the customers that you are solving a problem. So that they cannot help but sign up.

The best ways I have found for market research are these 3 (the list is not exhaustive though):

  • Competitor Analysis

This is just basic research starting at Google, YouTube and social media research to understand what is already available, which companies are doing well and where you can spot potential gaps that other companies are not addressing.

My favourite example here is Fly Safair.

Their planes are old, their colours are odd (pink and blue) and they don’t serve free meals on the flights. Yet they took off (pun totally intended) and made a name for themselves with fully booked flights. At the same time, SAA was offering free meals (they still do) in modern planes with lots of leg space and comfy seats and friendly staff. But the ONE thing that Fly Safair is consistently getting right is solving the biggest pain point for all passengers: arriving on time.

Many of us can probably agree that we’d rather sit in an old plane munching on our peanuts from home (the majority of people catch a snooze in any case) and arrive on time for that important meeting or presentation we have to deliver. The nicest plane and best beef or chicken sandwich in the world is not going to make up for a missed meeting where you were supposed to secure a deal. Or showing up with sweat stains under your arm pits from running from Gautrain Station to the office building.

And Fly Safair clearly understood this pain point with their on-time flights.

  • Customer Surveys

Direct engagement with potential customers through surveys offers invaluable insights into their preferences, pain points, and any unmet needs. This is also a favourite tactic of mine as you have real data to work with. No guessing. The challenge here is to get people to complete your surveys. Freebies and WhatsApp groups are popular ways to get the necessary feedback but it can be challenging.

  • Be resourceful in gathering more information

Something like industry reports serve as undervalued and often overlooked information, offering comprehensive analyses of market dynamics, growth projections, and emerging trends. There is so much one can learn from reading reports or insights into the market you are playing in but it takes work and a bit of dedication. Especially when things get boring, but the reward in the end is really understanding what is happening in your space.

The same goes for social media. I spend hours on social media platforms like LinkedIn and TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. Not because I necessarily enjoy it, although I won’t lie it can be very entertaining and I find a lot of the content very relatable 🙂 But there is so much to learn from these platforms.

Just looking at the reach (number of views), the engagement (the likes and comments) and the relatable content (shares), you can tell what people find interesting. Learn from that. See what they are doing and if you are planning to grow your company using social media, watch for popular trends and start learning how to leverage social media such as affiliate marketing or partnerships.

There is no one-size-fits-all. You have to figure it out on a case-by-case basis but that is also the fun part. Because if you fail, you adjust and try again. But man, if you hit the nail on the head it is MAGIC!!

What is your biggest fear when it comes to market research?

I found some useful tools on Hubspot plus a free Market Research Kit for you – just FYI you have to add a website URL to download the kit but it’s worth it!

Want to chat some more? Reach out to me at lizfuzy@gmail.com or let’s chat here.

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