In a recent presentation I felt it important to emphasize that market = customers. Sophisticated analysis firms (e.g. Daratech, Gartner, Forester, etc.) like to release studies in which ‘markets’ are described as under-served in certain areas; where a market is going;, or, how a market is segmented. The firms might have spoken to a thousand individuals (company or person) in order to produce statistically valid aggregated results. In the end, people become abstracted, reduced to something a smidgeon less generic than ‘they.’
In contrast, I have seen very smart business people read a market study and then meet with a number of customers. Later, back at the office, they debate, ‘…the ‘market’ is doing X. But I met with three customers this week that are doing Y. It’s as though market does not equal customer. The Market and Customer are one in the same. However the customers you may have just met with (you know, the ones that just spent time with you) are the ones that might write a check someday.
It is important as you nurture an idea into a viable product that you assign a proper perspective your input sources. Neither should necessarily trump one or the other though how you weight them may vary occasionally.