We all struggle to find our ideal customer. The goal of this blog post is to inform you of three basic concepts for your customer discovery process:
- How to start talking to potential customers
- Knowing when to pivot your business based on customer feedback
- How to create a customer profile or buyer persona
Let’s start with you and your idea.
Say you have an idea that keeps you up at night – you’re excited about it, you’ve been bold enough to tell some friends and family about it, and you think you know how to bring it to life. You begin working on creating your first prototype. Eventually, you start trying to sell your product on Etsy, at a local farmer’s market, or on a Facebook Page. But how do you know that people are going to buy it? The answer is by walking through the problem and solution-based approach.
At the Center for Creative Economy, we encourage our creatives to ask themselves these questions:
- What problem am I trying to solve?
- What makes me and my idea unique?
Answering these questions is the starting point for validating that your idea is going to take off. You may have a really cool idea that no one has ever executed on before, but if it isn’t solving a problem, then people probably won’t want to pay you for your solution. By the way, that “problem” could be anything, like people’s desire to dress up their dogs in adorable clothes – a problem is a gap in the market of what people are willing to pay for.
Now that you understand the approach, here’s what you should do first.
Determine if people will pay for your solution for a problem that is important to them – otherwise, your business won’t be able to thrive or they will try to find a different solution than yours. What better way to figure this out than to talk to your potential customers!
Think about where your audience would be.
Is your product or service for dogs? Try going to the dog park and talking to some dog owners.
Is your product or service for gamers? Use Reddit, message boards, and other social media platforms where those potential customers are likely to be hanging out.
Just by starting a conversation, your idea can become bigger than you ever thought it would be – you might meet someone that can introduce you to someone else who can then offer a lot of insight into your problem or solution, and it will create a ripple effect. We understand that face-to-face interactions can be intimidating, but I’m going to argue that they’re the most effective way to really gauge people’s temperature for your idea. A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of starting a direct conversation with a stranger, but if those people are truly interested in paying for your solution, they’ll be willing to share their pain points.
If you need to work your way up to that, use technology to your advantage. There are several cheap, quick, and easy ways that you can survey people online. However you need to do it, just start talking to your potential customers and ask questions. Let the customer tell you what they are interested in, and what they’d pay for it. You aren’t trying to sell your service yet – you’re just finding out what people want. Also, be careful not to reveal much about your potential solution, because you might sway them to sound more interested in your idea than they actually are.
We all have so many free resources literally at our fingertips. There are plenty of ways to reach out to potential customers to get instant feedback and to gather data. For example, Google Forms and Survey Monkey allow you to ask very specific questions that will spit out data for you that is ready to be analyzed.
We all scroll on social media – use it to your advantage to meet people where they are. Facebook and Instagram have poll tools that will allow you to reach out to the audience you already have and ask them questions providing you with instant feedback on your idea for a product or service and even what their wants and needs are. Getting out there and putting the phone down is also a great way to meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise – get out there and talk to people.
After talking with people, you may realize you need to pivot and shift your solution. This is normal, this is good, and this will get you one step closer to finding the sweet spot of a product you can offer that people want. You may need to offer a different solution than you originally intended, OR you may offer the solution to a different customer than you originally thought.
During this stage, you may end up changing the product, offering it at a different price than you were planning, marketing it to a different demographic, or scratching the idea altogether if the interest isn’t there. The most important thing to remember is that you need to get inside the heads of your potential customers and adjust according to what THEY want, not what YOU want.
Building Customer Profiles and Personas
By gathering information through surveys, talking to people, and sharing our idea and getting feedback, you will have a better understanding of who your potential customer is. With that information, you can create customer profiles or buyer personas.
A customer profile is a semi-fictional description of a customer based on the research you’ve gathered which includes characteristics such as demographics, geographics, and behaviors. By developing a solid persona, you will be able to better position your product in the marketplace, show up and find your ideal customer, and provide the value they’re looking for. You want the persona to be as descriptive or as detailed as you need them to be.
Here is an example that we put together of an ideal customer for some of our programs:
It is a composite of creatives that have been through our programs, But you give them a name and a face. Through talking to your customers and learning more about them and what their pain points are, you’ll be able to fill in the information to build personas. As you begin to position and market your products or services, you can start with profiles like the one above to ensure that you are developing messaging for these ideal customers, providing value, meeting them where they are.
You want to build out your profiles in an easy way that you can be as detailed as you need to be. Be sure to access and update profiles when necessary. You can use Powerpoint and Google Slides to create profiles like the one we’ve shared. There are hundreds of templates and additional information online, but one of our favorite tools is Make My Persona by Hubspot.
Hubspot is a software company based around inbound marketing – getting customers to come to you through valuable and meaningful content. They created Make My Persona which enables you to plug in information about your ideal customer such as key demographics, what type of industry they work in, their goals, challenges, what social media channels they belong to, etc. Make My Persona walks you through all of this, providing you with the questions to answer about your customer. What’s really cool is that after you’ve input all of this data you can download it as a PDF, AND IT’S FREE!
So if you think you have a cool idea, talk with who you *think* would be your ideal customer. Use free technology and tools to your advantage and meet people where they are. If you already have customers, continue to ask for feedback, and use your research to determine if you need to PIVOT. Then create your customer profiles to create a better position in the market, content that provides value, and structure for your business. Rinse and repeat!