How Do you Find the ‘Gap’ for your Business?

How Do you Find the ‘Gap’ for your Business?


Your business’s success depends on your ability to identify the right gap before you start your business.

So, what’s a ‘gap’?

Gaps or business opportunities are what the market wants but isn’t getting. A gap reveals itself each time someone expresses a need that is not being met.

Gaps can range from a need for new products or technology all the way through to requiring different services to those currently available.

How to identify a gap

Gaps are identified by listening to the market and responding to it. To listen to your market, you need to do research – even if this is informal or accidental. The key here is to speak to the people who will potentially become your customers.

Start off identifying whom you will be dealing with and what their needs are. Whilst it’s often easy to establish the usual suspects (or traditional clients), make a point of finding the unusual suspects too – possible new markets for your goods and/or services.

Determine who the key players are by asking the following questions:

  • Who are the main consumers?
  • Who are the suppliers?
  • Who is connected to whom and how are they connected?

Then go out and speak to these people. Find out how their needs both are and aren’t being met – and why. This will give you an indication about whether your idea is viable and will work or not.

When you’ve found your gap

Once you’ve identified your opportunity, it’s important to make sure it will actually work before you go ahead and create a business around it. To do this, link up what you’ve discovered on the ground (through your research) with what you want to do – and conceptualise your idea.

Ask yourself what your core business will be, and how you can fill the gap you’ve spotted. Outline your answers on paper. Check that they speak to the needs you first identified.

In answering these questions, you’ll be able to determine your business’ unique value proposition. (Your value proposition is your direct link to the market: it’s what your consumers are looking for.)

Before just going ahead and starting a business based on your findings, take your answers back to the advisors who originally helped you and ask them for their feedback. Use a format they can understand and don’t be afraid to share your ideas: chances are you’ll find clients along the way.

If people are interested in your ideas and you’ve applied the feedback you’ve been given, then it’s time for you to choose a business model – this will help you to see if you’ll make money on paper. This, in turn, will determine whether you’ve got an idea everyone thinks is great but won’t actually make money or prove that there’s a real market for you. If you can show that there is a market for you, it’s time to jump in and start up your business.

Use your gap to keep your market edge

While it’s one thing finding your business’ gap, it’s equally important to maintain your position in the market by continuously looking for new opportunities.

One of the best ways to do this is by strengthening your relationships with existing clients and then to keep listening to them. Remember that your business’ relevance will be enabled by constant communication: listening and responding to your market. In this way you’ll continually make sure that what you’re offering speaks to a real need in the market and isn’t just a “smart idea”.

To stay ahead, always keep thinking beyond your immediate context. To run a five-star service-oriented business for example, look at a five-star hotel and see how it’s run. Gaps are about ideas and possibilities. To find new ones, actively seek out a cross-pollination of ideas between seemingly different industries. This will enable you to expand your understanding whilst broadening your own market at the same time.

Shawn Theunissen
Shawn Theunissen is head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Growthpoint Properties and the founder and manager of Property Point, Growthpoint Properties’ enterprise development programme. Shawn’s diverse enterprise development expertise includes designing and implementing business support services; creating market linkages between SMEs and large corporate entities; and providing capacity building support, and process and learning journey facilitation. For more information visit
  • All Good and well, but how do you define the “Great Idea”?
    If your great idea works on paper and everyoner loves it but it doesnt make as much as projected what do you do then? I need to find deep pockets! has a huge gap in the auction market. Could the current market downturn not also be playing a major part in slow business in general?