Targeting, -defining your potential customer base- is the most important stage in the framework for creating a value proposition; yet it is the one which is the most overlooked. The reason for this is that people mistake segmentation and targeting for creating a business case. Developers often fall into the trap of trying to create a value proposition for everybody; Why? Well, a product that everybody will buy looks good on paper. If a developer can promise an enormous market size, they will have a better chance of being given the green light to produce their product, supported by sound funding.

But of course this is false economy; to create a value proposition that genuinely solves a problem for ‘everybody’ means that you have to have an enormously generic insight, which will lead to an enormously generic benefit, and an extensive list of features and functions that you would need to provide in order to deliver that benefit to satisfaction.

Realistically, it just isn’t possible to create a value proposition that solves everybody’s problems in one go.

What developers need to do is get into a mind-set that says:

“I can’t achieve a meaningful insight and value proposition for everybody”

But…

“I can narrow down the target and start to focus in on people who share a common set of beliefs / desired outcomes / needs”.

By doing this, developers enter in to the process of segmentation.

Taken to the extreme, the perfect act of segmentation would be to focus down on just one person; a developer could sit with that person and ask questions such as “what do you want? What do you need? What do you believe? What attitudes do you hold? What are you trying to achieve? What’s wrong with the things you’ve got now?”

And by having that conversation the developer could create the most perfect, granular and specific insight, before going on to produce a tailor-made solution (for one lucky individual, that is!).

When I meet with clients, 8 times out of 10 I find that they’re starting at the other extreme; they’re talking to everyone, trying to define a problem that everybody has. And this is where things start to fall apart: the client can’t be too specific about the problem because, within a vast consumer pool, individuals will come forward to say “…but that doesn’t apply to me’, ‘I don’t see it like that’. So the client makes the problem a little more vague so as not to disenfranchise anybody.

As a result, the value proposition just becomes woolly and out of control.

And I see this time and time again. Regular readers of my blog may remember my ‘critique’ of Lechal’s GPS insoles and the We:eX Navigate Jacket – items of clothing that have built-in sat navs. These are great examples of an insufficient narrowing and focus of target. Had either product been positioned as a navigational tool for the visually impaired, then there would perhaps have been a little more credibility to each concept. Unfortunately, both products were aimed at the general population under the proposition that EVERYBODY struggles with finding their way around.

 

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As a similar example, I’ve found this poorly-targeted product:

 

watermelon carrier1

 

‘Watermelon Straps’ is, as you can see, a gadget for carrying a watermelon. As products go, it’s by no means the worst concept out there, but it’s feasibility as a successful innovation is diluted by the fact that it seems to be aimed at…you guessed it…..EVERYBODY. Just take a look at the developer’s Kickstarter pitch:

“The US produced about 41 million watermelons in 2011! That’s over 1.7 million metric tons of watermelon annually! Most of that was probably carried by someone during harvest and by you when you bought it at the store and put it into your kitchen at home.

The idea behind Watermelon Straps was simple. During our July 4th vacation, we purchased a watermelon at the grocery store. It was a pain carting it around and lifting it in / out of the shopping cart. Then, when we got home and in the kitchen we accidentally dropped it on the floor..and the watermelon broke! So lame.

We came up with this idea to make it easier to lift and carry watermelons. Our straps are water resistant and are designed to wrap around the watermelon, holding it snug while you carry the fruit.”

So, based on one person’s unfortunate episode with a watermelon, the developer has assumed that this must be a common problem; there’s obviously melon-carnage on a global scale as shoppers fail to keep a tight grip on their exotic fruits. Luckily, Watermelon Straps are here to save the day:

 

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As a general gadget, aimed at everybody who has found themselves in possession of a watermelon, I can’t see this product taking off. Do individuals really buy watermelons frequently enough to merit investment in a fruit-transportation device? And just because one person dropped a melon on one occasion, does it mean that everybody else is throwing them around with wild abandon?

I may be stating the obvious here, but there is already a perfectly suitable solution should people find themselves struggling:

 

candystripe_vest_carrier_hand_1

 

Members of the public are seemingly in agreement as the product raised only $332 of its $25,000 funding goal.

Perhaps it would have been a different story if WaterMelon Straps’ developer had taken the time to conduct proper insight and consider the most appropriate market. Would fruit suppliers or supermarkets have been a better target? (For consumers, a watermelon that just happens to come with a carrying handle is an added convenience, -in much the same way that grapes are sold in little bags).

 

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Maybe Watermelon Straps could have been aimed at individuals with reduced dexterity? And could it have been designed as a gadget that accommodates numerous types of fruit / veg? (Even then, the humble carrier bag would probably work just as well….).

The key is finding the right balance between the size of business that’s appropriate (more than one customer!), and the specificity of target (not everybody at once!) – only then will developers be able to create a truly meaningful value proposition. Once you’ve made a decision on the target, everything becomes easier.