The easiest way to identify your target market is think about who exactly your product is for. Picture your ideal customer. How old are they? What do they do for a living? Where do they live? And, perhaps most importantly, why do they need your product?
Some characteristics to consider when defining your target customer are:
It’s important to picture your ideal customer as a real individual, because that’s what they are. Your goal is to get to know them as well as you can.
Where can I find prospective customers willing to speak with me?
Once you’ve managed to narrow down your ideal customer with 4 or 5 defining characteristics, you can begin to think of places to find them. Depending on your product, some customer segments will be easier to access than others. The most straightforward way to find a large group of potential customers is to think of one thing they all have in common, and target that. This might be a professional designation, which you can look for on LinkedIn, or it might belong to association or club, through which you can obtain the contact information of their members. If you’re targeting the general population, resources like Google Consumer Surveys or even your personal network can be leveraged to get the information you need. You can also check social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, or use conventional search engines or resources like the Yellow Pages.
Your primary goal is to tap into a representative sample of your prospective customer base. You might need to reach out to as many as 50 people to get 10 responses, but the information is worth it. As you begin your interviews, you may get a good idea of your market after you’ve spoken to only 8 people, or you might need to talk to many times that number before you feel certain about the responses you’ve collected. The sweet spot in customer interviews happens when you have enough data to draw reasonable conclusions, and more interviews are unlikely to result in new information.
Before you begin, define the “knowns.” You already have some ideas of what your prospective customer wants – that’s why you were inspired to create your product. Write down the assumptions about what your customer needs and why they will choose your product over competitors or alternatives. This should be a list of at least 10 items addressing the value and potential of your product. This list of assumptions will help guide the interview process and keep you focused on what is important.
How do I approach prospective customers for interviews?
When reaching out to your customers, be honest about the reason you’re contacting them: you want their input as an expert in the field (appeal to their ego) to better serve them. Chances are, they are more willing to speak with you than you might first think they are. Most people will be flattered you are reaching out to them, as it is not something that happens every day. If they’re experiencing a real problem and you can solve it, they will be in a hurry to talk about their experiences!
Be polite, be professional, and be honest with your prospective customers. After all, this is their first experience with your brand. Just as you’re getting to know them, they’re getting to know you. Be sure to thank them for taking the time to answer your questions, and promise to follow up in the future when your product becomes available.
Reach out to your prospective customers as early as possible, they’re waiting to talk to you and are often happy you called.
For more on Customer Discovery, check out How To Conduct Problem Interviews
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