January Roundtable: Finding Your Niche

On January 16th, we kicked off 2019 with a roundtable at The Refinery in downtown Austin. Annie Hardy led Finding Your Niche: Creating the Message that Connects, Every Time – an interactive workshop empowering entrepreneurs to understand their market.

Annie Hardy is the Founder and Managing Director of Zeet Insights. Zeet is a consulting firm that provides strategic research for companies, investors, and agencies. Annie launched Zeet in 2011. Today she leads a team of researchers and strategists to take a human-centered view of products and brands. Zeet has worked with a range of clients in technology, healthcare, higher education and more.


How to Find Your Niche

The workshop began with two simple prompts:

My company is ___.

Our customers are ___.

Annie challenged the audience to dig more deeply than simple demographics. Understanding your audience’s why is key to both identifying your target market and crafting the message most likely to convert. Whether you are building a product or a brand, market research is key to understanding your audience.

“Curiosity-driven research helps you discover your niche.” -Annie Hardy

Annie then broke down her favorite methods for customer research.

  • Market Research: Use online research to discover what media and industry experts are saying about your market

  • Competitive Analysis: Explore what competitors are saying so your message will stand out

  • Social Media Analytics: Research your audience on social to learn how they describe their problems and needs

  • Audience Surveys: Ask current and prospective customers questions to measure the frequency and importance of specific pain points

  • Contextual Inquiry: Observe customers and how they solve their problems or use your actual product today

  • Generative Research:Conduct interviews where you ask open-ended questions to dig deeply into what customers think and feel

  • Card Sorting:Invite customers to sort cards based on their priorities to better understand their values or problems or what messaging connects

Annie explained how startups can use each of these methods in a cost-effective way to test and validate products and messaging. All customer research starts with an assumption. To learn about their audience, entrepreneurs need to quickly prototype, launch, test and learn – and repeat the cycle.

Want to learn more?

Download the Finding Your Niche Slides

Annie also recommended the book Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas and Design Effective Solutions.

Don’t forget to follow ErgoAnnie and WomenatAustin on Twitter.

Christine Fahey