While most people see me as a teacher, I see myself as a lifetime student. One of the many things I study is market demand.
When my kids and their friends all talk about a product, I get intrigued as to why they like it.
When I’m walking around town and see a long line of customers out the door and around the corner demanding to buy something, I go to the front of the line to see what is being supplied.
The last few times I did this, I discovered: In & Out Burger (with a line of cars out the parking lot and down the street blocking the parking lot entrance to McDonald's), Jamba Juice, premium-priced cupcakes, and uncooked cookie dough (as a dessert).
In business-to-business markets, my favorite kinds of market demand are the ones prompted by regulatory changes.
In the late 1990s, there were several Fortune 500 accounting scandals. Several companies had altered their accounting records as a way to boost their stock price.
As part of a regulatory change to combat this problem, in 2002 the US government passed a law called Sarbanes Oxley (known as “Sox”).
To oversimplify, this law required that public company CEOs personally guarantee the accuracy of their company’s financial statements. If they were not accurate, the CEOs would go to prison.
In my entire career, I’ve never seen so many Fortune 500 CEOs panicked. There is no better way to get a CEO’s attention than to mention prison time.
The passing of the law prompted enormous demand for software and professional services to help Fortune 500 companies comply with the new regulations.
There’s nothing quite like customers being forced to choose between buying from you (or a competitor) versus facing jail time.
Watching hoards of customers buy shows when market demand meets market supply. As a student of market demand, you want to pay attention to this.
However, even more important than observing when demand meets supply, you want to pay attention to when high demand goes unfulfilled.
That is when customers want to buy, but there isn’t anything they can buy that meets their needs.
When you pay attention to this, you discover enormous market opportunities. Startups are built, markets are entered, and fortunes are made for whoever can find the pockets of unfulfilled demand and supply those customers.
So how exactly do you find unfulfilled demand? What is the secret?
It’s actually extremely easy.
Listen... for... people... complaining.
In this world, there is no shortage of people complaining about something.
People complain about not being able to find a date on Friday night. (Tinder heard that complaint.)
People complain about not being able to access their files that they left on their work computer. (Dropbox heard that complaint.)
People complain about how difficult it is to get a Windows PC to work. (Apple heard that complaint.)
[Rant: Incidentally, I bought my first Windows computer in 15 years this past week. It took me conversations with three different tech support people and a 45-minute phone call with Dell to get Microsoft Word to work. I mean, come on! Microsoft Windows and Word have been out for over 34 years. Dell has been around for that long too. Surely in over three decades you can get a word processor to work on the first try... yeah, I complain a lot too!)
As a student of market demand, I study what gets customers to spend money and what people complain about a lot.
Regardless of your career path, it’s useful to start paying attention to market demand in your everyday life. At a minimum, it will help you spot companies you want to work for (or recognize when it’s time to quit). At best, it will help you develop a more well-rounded business skill set.
Best of all, it requires no change in your daily activities -- just a change in your awareness level while you do it.
This is an example of the kind of career and life lesson I teach the people in my Inner Circle mentorship program. Just twice a year, I open up my mentorship program to new members for just a few days.
I'll be doing so in a few weeks. If you'd like to learn more about joining my Inner Circle mentorship program and to be notified when the enrollment period opens, just submit the form below.