In my ongoing learning and research on how to create an online business one thing has continued to stand out: Understanding your target customer is priority #1.
I’ve read this in books, in blog posts, and heard it firsthand from wildly successful entrepreneurs.
When you understand the pain, frustrations, and needs of your target customer, you give yourself a huge competitive advantage over your less-well-informed competition.
The vast majority of people don’t do serious customer research and by doing it, you’re taking a massive step forward and positioning yourself to make fast progress on future phases of your business.
Everything from content, messaging, branding, marketing, product development, and sales is impacted by knowledge of your target customer.
Take my situation for example.
Right now, I’m actively researching the target market of “young people with debt.”
As of this moment, I believe my target customer is:
- 22-34 years old
- Has credit card debt, student loan debt, or auto-loan debt
- Does not have children
- Is motivated to get out of debt
This was determined through doing market research, looking at the competition, and figuring out which part of the market I want to focus on.
But in terms of understanding this target market, here are some problems plucked straight from the mouths of my target customers:
- “My biggest challenge is resisting the urge to impulse spend in small amounts”
- “I pay all my bills on time, but I often end up paying the minimums on my debt because I overspend on non-fixed categories like food”
- “I don’t know where to start first, my college debt, or my credit card debt…”
Creating a Meetup group is a great way to find people in your target market but you can also join an existing Meetup group to save yourself the time of growing the member base.
Understanding your target customer requires a bunch of data points in a variety of areas…
What problems do they have?
What language do they use to describe their problems, desires, and successes?
What needs to they have?
What stories do they tell?
When you have this information, you can start to figure out what products or services you might offer to solve their problems. And good products are really just solutions to problems, right?
Here are some of the ways I’m attempting to understand my target customer:
- I’m having 1-on-1 conversations with people
- I’m sending out surveys: Typeform and SurveyMonkey are both solid tools
- I’m searching Reddit and forums for threads where people are discussing my target problem
- I’m searching blogs and websites in my target market and reading the comments on top posts
- I’m using Hootsuite to tweet at people who are talking about debt
- And I’m even exploring the process of getting cold traffic to a landing page for collecting email opt-ins*
*Pay-per-click campaigns using Google Adwords, Facebook, or other platforms can be expensive and time consuming if you don’t know what you’re doing (and right now, I don’t know what I’m doing), so be careful with this one.
It may seem like a lot of work (and it is), but it’s infinitely less work than building a product that doesn’t sell.
Even if you just create a spreadsheet where you track problems, language, needs, and stories, and then do some quick research online, you’ll be lightyears ahead of the average wantrepreneur.
During my “daily coffee meeting” phase where I was meeting with every successful entrepreneur I could get my hands on, more than a couple admitted to launching businesses without attempting to understand their target customer first, and having epic flops.
Let their hard-learned lessons save you from wasted efforts and make sure you do customer research before getting into product development.
And one final note if you’re sending surveys… be careful to include an “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” link in your emails.
What do you do to understand your target customer?