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How Entrepreneurs Can Identify This One Pressing Need If you can fill an underserved space in the market, you'll be well ahead of your competition.

By Lucas Miller

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Few things can be a greater harbinger of entrepreneurial success than identifying a pressing, underserved need in the market — ones with high demand but little competition. In fact, others in your niche may even be ignoring the issue entirely. Still, you may find yourself scratching your head puzzling out how to identify these pressing needs in the first place.

The good news is that by following these basic guidelines, you can act quickly to take advantage of these opportunities and gain a strong foothold with your target audience.

Look for 'jobs to be done'

One way to identify underserved needs is to use the "jobs to be done" theory put forward by Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School. In Christensen's thinking, customers are "hiring" a product or service to do a job for them. The job could be anything from getting a filling snack to making it through the afternoon at work or reducing their weekend chores.

A blog post detailing this concept explains, "It can be tempting to immediately shift your focus to the products or services that can fulfill those needs. However, JTBD isn't about the product; that comes later. Instead, as you get comfortable applying the theory in real-world situations, it's important to focus on the job, not the product."

As you become more observant to the "jobs" consumers need help with, it becomes easier to develop ideas that fill those needs. This requires that entrepreneurs develop a willingness to ask questions about a wide range of everyday situations. Introspection on the "jobs" you try to accomplish day in and day out can uncover gaps where a new product or service could make things safer, faster or easier.

Related: The 7 Basic Human Needs That Successful Businesses Focus On

Identify groups underserved by market leaders

Quite often, however, an underserved need isn't the result of a lack of available products or services. Instead, it can be the result of a key market segment not getting serviced by the leading businesses in a particular niche. These underserved groups could be ignored by current market leaders based on factors such as geography, finances or other structural issues. By researching the extent that a customer group is underserved and how they could benefit from the services they don't currently have access to, entrepreneurs can identify and engage lucrative new markets.

Take immediate action

After identifying an unfulfilled "job" or an underserved market group, entrepreneurs need to move swiftly to validate their ideas and start turning them into reality. Market research is key to understanding the full scope of whether the need truly qualifies as a pressing issue that will appeal to your target market. Interview customers to get a better understanding of whether they feel this is an actual need, and if the product or service helps them in their daily routines. Broader data can help you understand what your target market can afford.

Research can also help you determine if your solution to an underserved need is truly viable. Can you scale your product or service as demand grows? Do competitors in your niche already offer some variation of your solution? How will you differentiate your solution from similar competitors? Entrepreneurs must do their due diligence to ensure that their proposed solution successfully fills the "job" customers need help with, and that it adequately addresses the needs of underserved market groups. Focus groups and testing of your product or service can also help you fine-tune your offerings prior to a major launch.

Perhaps most importantly is getting in the mindset of taking action swiftly. Entrepreneurs who wait put themselves at risk of a competitor swooping in and winning the market with a similar idea. Getting to market first with your validated solution will help you achieve brand recognition and loyalty to ensure lasting success.

Related: The Best Time to Take Action Is Now

Underserved needs can come in a surprisingly wide variety. It could be a service that currently isn't offered by other market leaders. It could even be an entire demographic that's being ignored by other businesses, or an expansion or improvement of current product or service ideas. By developing an inquisitive mindset and a willingness to adapt your own business offerings to better deliver on underserved needs, you can become a true market leader and achieve significant growth in your niche.

Lucas Miller

Founder of Echelon Copy LLC

Lucas Miller is the founder and CEO of Echelon Copy LLC, a media relations agency based in Provo, Utah that helps brands improve visibility, enhance reputation and generate leads through authentic storytelling.

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