by Jess Dewell
Creating a new product is always challenging. Putting a business model and sales channels in place for the new offering is equally demanding, and also requires a different skill set. Both of these statements speak to the efforts of the architect; but what of the role of the end user, the customer, in both these processes?
Approach 1: I have a skill people pay me for. I can work on my own.
So you started a business! You may or may not obtain customers right away. How much time did you spend thinking about potential clients while starting up the company?
What’s easier is considering your expectations as a consumer. What are the best tactics that make purchasing easier? What helps in making decisions to choose a product? How did the company make you feel unique and special?
I recommend reading The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. Many of its principles apply to business today, and the roles required for success are relevant. The book’s premise pertinent to this conversation is that your strengths tend to focus in one of three possible areas: engineer, manager, or entrepreneur.
Compartmentalizing activities within the aforementioned zones ensures both covering all angles during product creation, and using a lens that allows thinking outside our comfort zone, to expand opportunities for business planning and growth.
Approach 2: Research shows there are customers who want the product.
Meaning who patrons are, and where they hang out, may still be ambiguous. Taking time to learn more will provide knowledge and insight on where to market, when to advertise and what customers really want.
What’s cool about the Internet is that little data has as much to offer as big data for actionable insight. This article explores the former.
Start with the basics: demographics, comprising traits like gender, age, occupation, and education. Then add a bit more: sociographics, which includes income level, hobbies, and preferred spending habits (cars, travel, trains, horses, etc.).
Demographics and sociographics provide insight into specific groups of people. Still, something is missing. With so much information available on the Internet, our awareness must go beyond direct rivals to encompass the other brands primary competitors follow and receive information from, plus those secondary brands’ friends and networks.
How you connect with all existing and potential customers will define their willingness pay attention. Generating that opportunity takes time–make no mistake, this is a long process–but every minute of purposeful action will yield results.
The payoff to the hard work of building relationships is trust and likability extending far beyond a purchase. As the world continues to change, businesses understanding and connecting with patrons on a deeper level will continue to have the advantage.
The first step on the difficult–but rewarding–path to long-lasting business-client relationships is constructing a Character Customer to represent a target market segment:
A buyer persona representing a target market segment provides an overview of common traits: WHO is in the group. Looking at a single person to make business decisions is easier than considering all the individuals within the market segment.
WHAT makes them look for the product? The motivation for seeking out a particular item will impact what they ask peers, how they search online and, ultimately, your own product messaging.
Whatever you choose to do with social media, newsletters, blogging, advertising and other online promotion affects the content. How people interact on Facebook and Twitter is very different; the same exact diction will not return the same results. Likewise, the manner of communicating in newsletters will not be the same as on blogs. Based on resources available, you will choose what to create; where to promote; and what to say in each medium.
You can easily describe the product’s value proposition to someone by knowing their specific Character Customer and target market segment. Tailoring the information to a specific person or group increases the opportunity for building a relationship (trust and amiability).
As people’s habits change, our businesses must also adapt. Identifying trends that can impact how or why individuals would use the product prepares a business to proactively plan for adjusting to market variations.
Now differentiation comes into play. Distinguishing direct and indirect competition ensures that as your business develops, the Character Customers representing your target market segments define the opportunities for being different.
If we do just the same as everyone else, or make choices because we think we need to…that’s keeping up, not growing our business. Watching the competition is necessary:
not to react, but to plan purposeful action to maintain and expand the existing place in the market (your share-of-voice, i.e. how much you are heard).
The value proposition illustrates differences. To enhance and amplify that message, a communicator can use specificity; a highly detailed dispatch enables:
Remember, 12 to 30 or more different target market segments may exist, plus the same number of segments that aren’t a match for the product. Most of the time, however, we try to fit everyone into our own particular customer groups–an action making messaging more difficult, less specific and bland to boot. Perceiving who the customer isn’t is equally important as realizing who is.
But if demographic and sociographic information remains static, how does the decision to possibly change align with client motivations for needing the product? Here the entrepreneur should use Character Customers when thinking about product updates, enhancements and direction changes.
To keep the product, and your business, relevant for even well-defined market segments, ongoing work is necessary. The choice to be customer-centric allows us to listen, learn and act purposefully.
Relationships are powerful.
Whether already in business or just starting out, focus shifts and priorities change across the three approaches explored. Keep in mind, the online experience has moved beyond finding a buying a product. It also includes a relationship. You define that relationship and set the expectation. Don’t underestimate the benefits of being service focused and create a digital footprint that opens the door for conversation with current and potential customers.
About the Author: Jess Dewell is an honorary member of the ASP, and has
served as ASP President, Secretary, and Chairman of the Board. Jess is online at reddirection!