Current market potential experiments

Suppose you're making a mass market product and overnight everyone in the world knew about you and heard your best product pitch. Maybe it came to them in a vivid dream. Maybe the instant they woke up it all flashed before their eyes in some sort of marketing osmosis. It is a thought experiment so take your pick.
Now, given everyone knows what you're doing and understands your value proposition, how many users will you retain? What % will you convert? This thought experiment is one quick way to guesstimate the true market potential of your current offering (as opposed to some future or idealized product). It gets you your current market potential, which is a subset of your market size.

There are ways to move it from thought experiment to real experiment as well. You can take (willing) people off the street and try it in reality. A good feature mainstream press story can be a good proxy as well if you assume that people who click through kind of get it.

For businesses or niche consumer apps the only difference is the universe of targets is smaller. But you can easily run similar experiments.

If your current market potential is close to your current market share then you have work to do on product development. If your current market share is well below your current market potential then you have work to do on traction development.

I've been thinking about this a lot over the past year with regards to DuckDuckGo. Given the recent news cycle, we've had a lot of exposure to new users in new communities. From our analysis we think the market potential of our current product is at least an order of magnitude greater than our current market share.

We have a ton of things to do on product that we're working on and that we believe will increase our current market potential further. However, we also have an awareness problem that really entraps most mass-market consumer apps. SFGate said it best about us recently:

I'll bet you can say "Have you tried Duck Duck Go?" to 100 people outside the tech realm and 96 of them will look at you blankly or think you're talking about a new Chinese restaurant.


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I'm the Founder & CEO of DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn't track you. I'm also the co-author of Traction, the book that helps you get customer growth. More about me.