There’s Someone for Everyone. You Just Have to Find Them.

Your product needs customers. Determining who they are and why they care.

Blog Poster: Elissa Prichep

We’ve all heard the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” A marketer might say, “Sound or no sound — no one knows so no one cares.” A marketer wants people to know and care about your product. More specifically, they want to identify the people who should be interested in your product or service and ensure those people know your product exists and understand the value it can provide them. As a founder eager to grow 5–10% per week (see last week’s post on the one metric that matters), you should too.

This week at the PSLU Accelerator, Brock Weatherup, serial entrepreneur and president of PSL, provided guidance on finding customers and understanding their needs. Our shorthand for this is product/market fit.

Before diving into that, it must be said that foundational to this post, the previous post, and all of the posts to follow will be this: know what your company does and why that matters. Be able to communicate it in a clear, distilled, concise, simple statement. Write it down and tape it to the wall, your computer and your bike helmet. Practice delivering the statement at networking events. If you are unable to do this, invest the time now. Otherwise, you will build plans without focus. That means talking to the wrong people, wasting time and using money inefficiently, and I don’t want you doing that to yourself. For the rest of this post, I’ll assume you have the statement set.

Finding and Connecting With Your Customers

Brock asked teams to think about and write down the answers to the following three questions.

  1. Who is your customer? Write a 2–4 sentence description of that person. Who are they? Introduce me to them as if at a cocktail party.
  2. What need or gap does your product or service fill? In other words, what problem are you solving?
  3. How are you different? What makes your product/service unique?

The first question helps frame your target audience (the group with whom you want to win) and focus you on who you should approach to sell your product. When answering the first question, your customer is the person with whom you are directly interacting. If you are selling coffee to a coffee shop owner, then your pretend cocktail party guest should be the coffee shop owner and not the coffee drinker.

Invest time in painting the portrait of your customer. Give your person a name, an age, a job, an income, motivations, desires, an educational status, a social life, hobbies, media consumption habits, a style and anything else that makes this person real and relevant to you. Be specific in a way that drives targeting: your customer should be representative of the larger audience to which you will market. If you cannot start this exercise with confidence, it likely means you need to take a step back and conduct market research to identify the right audience for your business.

This portrait exercise holds true whether you are selling to businesses or consumers. If selling to a business, you are still selling to a person. Their needs are just focused differently, which moves us to question two.

The second question frames why your audience should care about your product. If your customer is a business person, figure out what your product or service does to help their business. The options could include increasing revenue, driving sales, reducing loss or improving customer satisfaction, among other business needs. If your customer is a consumer, how are you improving or simplifying their life?

Do not be tempted to oversell your product to your audience or overreach to an unnecessarily broad audience. That may actually harm your efforts. Marketing is fundamentally about changing behavior and behavior is hard to change. Small changes are easier for people to adopt. For example, back to bike helmets, it is easier to get people who already buy helmets to consider a new type of helmet than it is to get people who do not buy helmets to start buying them AND to then buy yours.

Next, explain why your target customer would want to buy your product or service over another one, or versus their current solution. Yes, doing nothing to solve their problem can count as their current solution. Your explanation is your differentiating factor. It separates you from the competition and gives your customers a reason to pick your product or service over another in order to solve their problem.

Focus, Focus, Focus on the Right Customers

Now that you’ve completed the three questions for one target audience, you may be tempted to do the same for a secondary target audience. Aren’t more customers better? Only if you can effectively sell to them and, with your limited resources, you probably cannot. Focus on the one group where you can win.

What if you have a few good options and you are struggling to choose which customer group to focus on first? If you are looking at different consumer groups, then try a few focus groups to narrow your options. Alternatively, put a small amount of resources toward each and see which of the options goes best. Fail quickly and then focus on your one primary customer group.

A more difficult problem is choosing between selling to businesses and selling to consumers. Many would say to start selling to businesses to get larger upfront wins. Bigger payments will give you more resources and time to grow. Ultimately, however, think about where you are most likely to get traction. If a business provides a big win but it is a significantly more difficult and risky path, then it may not be the best path for you at this time. Talk with your partners, advisors and mentors to figure out how to proceed.

At this point, you’ve developed a good marketing strategy for your target customer. You know who to talk to, what to say and why it matters to them. Importantly, you’ve done it with significant focus and clarity. And you’ve written it down. Now tape this to the wall next to your foundational statement and get to selling.

Elissa Prichep is dedicated to helping people live longer, healthier lives. She works in healthcare and spends her spare time as a political participant, start-up friend, and intrepid traveler. You can find her walking her two amazing rescue dogs around Rittenhouse @eprichep

Brock Weatherup is a CEO, entrepreneur, angle investor, builder of enterprise value and passionate advocate about the consumer and their interactions with digital media & Ecommerce. He is currently managing partner of Atai Ventures angel investments, co-founder of ICONYC (www.iconyclabs.com) an accelerator focused on seed stage Israeli tech companies and investor/advisor/board member for 7+ startups. Through April 2015, he was Chief Digital Officer of Petsmart after selling Pet360 to them where he was Ceo for 5yesrs. Brock also built Fathead, held several leadership positions with InterActiveCorp (Ticketmaster, Match.com, CitySearch, ReserveAmerica). A graduate of University of Colorado Boulder, sits as a board member of the Nature Conservancy — Adirondacks, father of two amazing girls and pet owner to my 4yr old retriever named…Boulder. @BrockWeatherup

Philly Start-up Leaders Accelerator provides Philly’s promising founders & startups with an opportunity to connect and build lasting relationship through one-on-one mentorship. We do so by leveraging the knowledge and resources of the community to create more successful, strong, and scalable startups in Philly. We do not take equity; we only provide value. @StartupLeaders

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