Significant Unmet Needs and How to Recognize Them

  • March 2, 2021

A major component of business and product development is identifying a significant unmet need and creating a solution to meet that need. But how to determine a need exists presents a major problem to many small businesses. Describing what unmet need your product meets is a critical component of applying for many research and development focused federal grant opportunities such as Small Business Innovation Research grants.

The Customer

It is nearly impossible to determine where significant unmet needs lie without learning about your customer base. That being said, customer discovery is a good first place to start in your journey to identify and solve significant unmet needs. This can be accomplished using existing customer data for similar products, informal interviews with potential customers, or through performing a competitive analysis of your proposed product against the leading competition. Listen to your customers. What are they saying competitive products are incapable of? What market needs do they have that they feel are not addressed? Learning your customers’ significant unmet needs will allow you to create a product that meets these needs.

What To Look For

Often times, significant unmet needs are the result of poor performance in existing products. Primary customer complaints include inefficiency, frustration, and pain or discomfort. These are the primary pain points for which most users seek a better solution. If you can identify aspects of competitor products that are uncomfortable, inefficient, or frustrating, you are likely well on your way to discovering a significant unmet need to solve with your product.

Why The Significant Unmet Need is Important

It is important to know the drawbacks to current products in order to predict where the market is headed. If you already know what does not work well, you can focus your attention on developing a product that does. Without understanding what makes similar products inferior, you can not determine the significant unmet needs inherent in their performance and build a better product. It is for this reason that customer discovery in general and unmet needs specifically are so important to an emerging small business. So ask yourself, “what do your customers need most”?, then go out and build it!


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