It is not a sarcastic question … Who is going to buy from you? How do you keep finding customers? This is one of the most important steps you need to work on when starting a new product or idea. Even if you are already running your own little empire, it is a good exercise to step back and redefine your customer needs once in a while.
It is a very common mistake … you have an idea, a brilliant idea for a product (or a class, or a type of event, or a service), so good you don’t know why you didn’t think about it before. And you start designing, making & selling with the hope that your customers will find you soon. And why not? people are going to love it! And they might … but is it something they need? who is going to buy from you? where are you going to find them? how much are they willing to pay?
You need to have a very clear image of your customers and you should do a good amount of research before you start making and selling your products. Doing this research early on will save you a few headaches and will also give you a great amount of information that you will be able to apply to your marketing later on.
Who is going to buy from you?
Start with a detailed definition of your customer, including information about what they like and dislike, their disposable income, what do they do in their free time, where do they buy, do they have children or are they young professionals, do they go on holidays to the beach or to the country and anything you can think of.
Where are you going to find them?
Nothing to do with marketing or how they are going to find YOU, this is about how and where you are going to find them first so you can ask them if what you make or sell is something they need. Here a few ideas:
– Set up a local feedback/focus group. Local Facebook groups are great for this as they already include people with similar characteristics and they are near you (dough!) although you must consider that not all of them are going to be your target market. Join & attend a few Meetups related to what you do – don’t forget to ask the organiser first about your sabotage plans. Ask your friends, but don’t buy them wine in return or they will be too nice to you!
TIP: Don’t ask bloggers to give you feedback in this first step, although they will be great later on to write about your products or services, they are not your customers! Unless you are selling something the bloggers will need.
– Post in online forums. Ask if they would be interested in providing feedback. If they are not local, make a short video or set up a skype call if they are willing to spend some time with you.
TIP: Only send the information to those that have expressed interest and have given you their approval!
TIP: For these first two steps, do not try to sell anything, do not sound spammy either. You only want genuine feedback so you can work on your product and make it perfect.
– Check your competition, yuk! yes, those who are making or selling something similar. It is very unlikely that you don’t have any. You are not checking them out to copy anything, you want to research their customers and their prices, where and how they sell and their message. They may be ahead in this area and it always good to learn from others.
– If your customers are other businesses, give them a call or send them an email to get a short meeting with them. Remember – you are asking for feedback, you are not trying to sell anything.
– If you already have a reasonable mailing list or Facebook page and are planning to launch a new product or service, ask your current customers too. Ask first if they would like to provide feedback, then send, to these only, all the info.
TIP: Use customer surveys (e.g. Survey Monkey) to get a feeling for what they may like to receive from you or what challenges they face, but not for specific details.
TIP: If your customers are local, invite them along, do or give something valuable for free in return for their feedback.
What do they think?
– Gather your group together. Describe your product or service in detail, including its features, the benefits and the problem that is going to solve or the need that is going to fulfill.
– LISTEN. Ask them questions and LISTEN. Their feedback will be the most valuable thing you will ever have. And whilst you are at it, take notes about the people who are there kindly telling you everything.
Did you get good and valuable feedback? Change your product or service accordingly. You must apply their feedback!
Feedback no good? Well …. If you are absolutely convinced that your product is still great and people just didn’t get it, try with another group (They were obviously not your ideal customers, who wants customers like that anyway?). But you need to find someone who likes it, needs it and would buy it – your mum is excluded.
– A product or service with real features and benefits, with a price which people are willing to pay.
– A small group of potential customers (hey, small but it is a start!)
– A defined target market (remember those notes????) and where/how to find your future customers.
– You also have lots of insight to start defining your value proposition and your branding.
– And you haven’t spent any money yet!
NOTE FROM SELF:
During the first year of running The Old School Club I had no idea how valuable this information was. I asked a few questions at the beginning but I failed to understand what my customers really wanted. I obviously knew what they needed. Wrong!
Until the next one, please feel free to send me any questions …
BECOME A MEMBER
Enter your details to get on the VIP List. You will be the first one to know when we open again and in the meantime we will send you the Creative Business Plan so you can start to plan for your business.