Disruption, Dating and Product Development

I have a friend who came out of a long-term relationship a few months ago.

He’s attractive, dresses well, and has a great career in a stable and well-respected industry. He owns his own home, is kind, articulate, stable, caring, funny, and has strong values. He’s the kind of guy who you KNOW will do well as soon as he’s back in the dating pool.

I also have some female friends who fit similar profiles. Similar ages, even better careers, also homeowners, equally kind, stable, caring, funny… But those women struggle when it comes to dating.

I’m fascinated by demographic shifts in markets, and the opportunities (and problems) that they create.

The dating market is one of these places where wild shifts in demographics happen.

Since the 1980’s, there’s been a shift towards women dedicating their 20’s to their career and education. It’s meant that about 45% of young women today hold a bachelor’s degree or higher – compared with 32% of men.

But as they reach their 30’s, these professional, career-oriented, highly educated women turn their focus to the dating market, and ticking the “person they want to be with for the rest of their life, and start a family with” box.

This is when the pool of eligible men dries up.

By the time they reach their early 30’s, a third of all women are single – and a third of all men too. But only half of the available men have a high school education, 57% earn $42,000 or less, and more than a quarter are unemployed.

Suddenly, men who might never have been given the time of day in their 20’s are in high demand. Having previously competed for attention in a crowded buyers market, suddenly their value skyrockets in the sellers market that emerges. They find themselves being actively courted by high-achieving women (who are developing their own marketing dating strategies). Not because there’s a lack of men. But because there’s a lack of GOOD men.

Men in this type of market don’t need to be great at self-promotion. They don’t need clever pick-up lines or gimmicks. They just need to be a sufficiently good catch, and have sufficiently good self-promotion.

If they want to elevate their own value, and take their pick from the pool of available women, they can work on themselves and become better men.

Conversely, women in this market aren’t likely to substantially improve their pool of potential partners through becoming better women. They’re already educated and ambitious, have great careers, and (for the most part) great heads on their shoulders. The key to their success at this point is how well they’re able to market themselves.

It’s an interesting metaphor for the types of markets where product innovation and quality matter. These are markets that have 2 or more of the following:

  • DEFICIENCY: A market saturated with available options to buy, but many low-quality options.
  • DEMAND: A large number of existing buyers.
  • DISCERNMENT: Buyers are educated, and have exacting standards.

Education (primary, secondary, and higher education), training (corporate and skills-based), internet service and telecommunications providers, beverages, weddings… And up until recently, taxis and home delivery… All of these markets meet this criteria.

These are markets where there’s a mismatch between consumer expectations, and the actual options available.

(A fourth factor (DEREGULATION: The barrier to product development isn’t too high to innovate) can speed up the pace of innovation, and create an environment primed for “disruption” if a sufficiently scaleable product can be found. But, as we saw with Uber, innovation can precede deregulation.)

So what do we do with this?

If we’re in a market where there’s a high amount of DEMAND, a DEFICIENCY of quality, and a DISCERNING consumer who values quality – it makes sense to invest in product development and innovation. To BE, or to MAKE, the best version of the product available.

These are the types of markets where quality and innovation matters most. Markets where high quality sellers are outmatched by the number of potential buyers, and where buyers pay attention to quality.

Marketing still matters in these markets. But having anything less than a market-beating offering will leave you feeling like you’re dragging your marketing through waist-deep mud here.

In other markets – or when you already have a market-beating product – marketing matters more.

P.S. I’m delighted to be speaking with Anthony Moss at the next Leading Conversations Webinar. We’ll be discussing ROI and how your marketing strategies need to adjust to the current climate to ensure the right messages are engaging with the right audience.

If you’d like to register for the complimentary webinar, you can here.