Interesting Marketing Dilemma

I’ve been working on turning idea that originally came to me 20 years ago into an app. In the process, it’s taking some interesting twists and turns.

It all started out 20 years ago while I was at a sound healing conference. Some of us were sitting around talking about different things, and we got onto the topic of guided meditations (GMs). At one point, someone complained about the fact that GM tapes and CDs tend to be expensive ($15-$30) and you only listen to them two or three times.

Now, there are some really interesting reasons why that’s the case that I’m not going to get into here, but it highlighted a problem. After a little while, I mentioned that I was a software developer, and someone suggested I come up with a way to generate randomized GMs via software. 

I started pondering this and came up with a way to do it. However, this was 1995 and I figured it would take about two hours of computing time on a PC to produce a 20-minute GM audio. I actually started building some softare to do that, but the technology at the time was just too crude to get a reliable result.

The main issue was how you take a bunch of words and shuffle them up, then render them to an audio file in a way that sounds pleasant. I tried several approaches, and they just didn’t produce good results.

So I put it on the shelf, and came back to it every few years to see if anything new in the tech world would help solve this problem.

About a year ago, I dug out my notebook and took another look at it, then started searching around for anything new that might be relevant. Lo and behold, I came upon a technology that looks like it holds the missing link to make this feasible! FINALLY!

I then started to take a fresh look at the problem to see how it could be implemented today. The idea was originally targeted to be a desktop app, or a website. But what would it look like as a mobile app? That’s where it starts to get interesting.

In the process, I’m taking a class on “start-ups” where we look at the various criteria that need to be addressed to make a start-up work. A big part of that is something called, “product market fit” — that is, identifying a product that the market wants and making it fit. It’s an iterative process, and you need to engage potential customer by actually talking to them about your idea.

I’ve discovered a couple of really interesting things  as a result.

First, I can split the world into two groups: those who understand what guided meditations are and the problem that arises from listening to recordings multiple times; and everybody else. In other words, there are some folks who know what GMs are and just get what I’m talking about. This is my target market. Or so I thought.

The surprizing thing I found was, within that target market, it’s really, really difficult to explain to them what I’m doing and why they should be interested. Ouch!

Here’s an analogy: imagine a small town that has a pizza joint, and all they make is pepperoni pizzas. When you order a pizza, you get a pepperoni pizza. So if you ask anybody in that town what a pizza is, it’s a big rouind piece of dough with tomato sause, cheese, spices, and pepperoni on it.

One day an innovative young entrpreneur decides to open a new pizza joint, and his menu has 45 different kinds of pizzas named on it — because he’s got a dozen different toppings he can put on his pizzas in different combinations. The problem is, the people in the town have been eating pepperoni pizza for so long that they cannot comprehend someone making a pizza with different toppings on it.

That is, a pizza is only a pizza if it comes one way — with pepperoni on it.

Anything else is not a pizza! It may be tasty and enjoyable, but … it’s something else. Not a “pizza” as these people know it to be.

Henry Ford made cars, “in any color you want as long as it’s black”. So for years, car were black. That was it. Cars that weren’t black were … strange contraptions for some other purpose. Fire trucks were red, for instance.

So, coming back to my issue, I’m finding that people who listen to GMs are like people who’ve only ever had pepperoni pizza. When I start talking about all the cool things you can do if you use software to generate a GM, they look at me as if I’m confused and say, “but that’s not a guided meditation!

What I’ve learned from this is … whether people get what GMs are or not is irrelevant. Even if they do, what this software creates doesn’t occur to them as GMs — they’re something else entirely.

Which means … my target market just collapsed into the size of a pin-hole.

This poses an interesting problem. Essentially, I’m going to have to define an entirely new product category. Hmmm…. Looks like this project just took a very interesting turn.

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