In college, I interned at a MarTech company that sold email marketing optimization software. With their software, brands could finally gain visibility into their email program’s deliverability rate or inbox placement, which almost all email service providers, like MailChimp and Constant Contact, can’t do.

The business’ largest revenue stream was a channel partner program that enabled email service providers to sell my old company’s software to their own customers. And one day, at an all-hands meeting, our CEO showed us a slide that listed every single email service provider we partnered with and the amount of customers they all had.

He told us this was our total addressable market. Then, he showed us a slide of how much of the market we had captured -- it was a single digit percentage. Even though we generated $100 million in revenue per year, we were shocked at how little of the market we had secured. But it also helped us realize that we still had plenty of room to grow, which motivated us to win as much of the market as possible.

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Whether you want to start a new company and gauge its industry’s profit potential or forecast a realistic revenue growth goal for your business, measuring your total addressable market is a crucial first step you must take. To help you do this, we’ve put together a guide that’ll teach you exactly what total addressable market is and the best way to calculate it.

Unless they're a monopoly, most companies can’t capture the total addressable market for their product or service. Even if a company just has one competitor, it would still be extremely difficult for them to convince an entire market to only buy their product or service.

That’s why most companies also measure their serviceable available market to determine how many customers they can realistically reach with their marketing and sales channels. Additionally, they gauge their share of market to understand the size of their actual target market.

However, total addressable market is still useful because businesses can use TAM to objectively estimate a specific market’s potential for growth.

How to Calculate TAM

According to MIT’s Global Startup Labs program, the best way to calculate total addressable market is by running a bottom-up analysis of an industry. A bottom-up analysis involves counting the total number of customers in a market (which you can do by adding up the amount of customers each company in this market has) and multiplying that number by the average annual revenue of each customer in this market.

How to Calculate TAM

After you calculate your total addressable market, it’s time to determine whether it’s worth entering the industry or not.

According to MIT’s Global Startup Labs program, an industry with a market size ranging from $20 million to $100 million per year is worth entering. However, if the industry’s market size is under $5 million per year or over $1 billion per year, it’s probably not.

In both situations, it’d be challenging to persuade investors to back your company -- an industry with a market size of $5 million per year would likely be too niche and an industry with a market size over $1 billion would likely be too saturated.

Know Your TAM Before You Take Action

Starting a business or projecting next year's revenue growth is always thrilling. But if you want to follow a realistic path toward success, you need to first understand what's actually possible. So let your total addressable market be your North Star and guide you through a journey that's rooted in reality, not hype.

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Originally published Mar 8, 2019 7:44:43 AM, updated July 12 2019

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