What knowing your buyer will do for you
In the last couple of weeks market research keeps coming up with the companies I work with. I’m reminded of just how important it is, how hard it can be, and how much people dislike it. When you’ve got a concept you think is a great you really just want to move forward and sell it! There are many more fun things than market research — I get it. Plus, you felt the pain; you know you need the product so everyone else would obviously want it, too. Right? Wrong. Not everyone thinks like you. By knowing your buyer inside and out, forward and backwards (and acting on it) is the key to your success as a company. So it’s time to embrace it as an essential part of launching a product. It cannot be skimmed over. Following a strategy that consists of the right open-minded questions will help you truly understand what your target market thinks so you know best how to sell to them (or realize that’s not who you should be selling to to begin with).
Who is my buyer anyways?
Do you know what your buyer looks like? Maybe you’ve known for a long time. Or maybe you want to open your product up to a new market and need to figure that out all over again. Or maybe you think you have an idea, but you can’t really say for certain because no one has actually bought your product or service.
The more specific you can get about your buyer the deeper you’ll know them and the easier you’ll be able to target them. People spend their time in different places and like different things. It’s that simple.
To create this persona some things you’ll want to think about are age, gender, demographics, and interests. This may end up sounding something like: moms between the ages of 30 and 40 who have multiple kids between the ages of 6 and 12 in cities with populations of 100,000-250,000 people. Having a persona that specific gives you a much better idea of who to target and where to target them so you aren’t swimming (or paralyzed) in possibilities.
Remind me again - Why do I need to know this much about my buyer?
If you think about it, there are ample places people can be found: different social media platforms, different groups (in-person and online), different stores, different events, etc. It would be incredibly inefficient, and just impossible, to target all of them. Knowing your buyer helps direct your attention.
When you know your buyer you know the best angle to take. Selling a product to a mom for their child would look very different than selling it to the child directly. You wouldn’t talk to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company the same way you would talk to a mom, either. Whoever it is, it’s important to listen to them and understand the pain they are experiencing.
Once you know who your buyer is you can identify what type of content they connect with best. Videos? Infographics? Articles? Memes? All of this will be defined by who that target persona is.
By knowing your buyer in these ways you lower your risk. You can now make better decisions which will lead to an effective strategy.
What happens when I don’t know my buyer?
Simply put, without direction it ends up being a whole lot of waste. Wasted time. Wasted money. And wasted energy. With the wrong kind of effort put in the wrong place, communicating the wrong thing, to the wrong person, your marketing efforts could end up looking like using a meme to sell enterprise software to a retired grandma. That’s doesn’t sound right. So when you try to sell the enterprise software to the retired grandma the best case scenario is that it has no effect other than lost resources on your part. It basically fell on deaf ears. In one ear and out the other. The worst case scenario is that it would have a negative effect because of how the marketing efforts unintentionally misrepresented you. It’s probably more likely to fall under the first scenario, but that’s still not great.
Additionally, if you haven’t truly figured out who your buyer is that means that you also haven’t had real, deep conversations with them to get to know them. Which means that for early stage companies you may be building something that isn’t needed (which would be terribly sad!) or you may be building it the wrong way or without an important feature (which would be sad also). No one has that kind of money to waste.
Can I have multiple buyers?
If you already have a great base of people you’ve sold to successfully, I hope you fast-forwarded. My apologies if you didn’t. Or if you’re just someone who wants to think about all your target markets at once, know that you can have multiple buyers.
It’s probably best to add different buyer personas one at a time. That way you don’t lose focus and the messaging ends up just right for all your audiences. No skimping allowed!
How to know your buyer
For early-stage companies in particular, there’s always the pressure to be moving fast. You’re frequently strapped for cash and concerned that another company is going to beat you to it. So balancing the need to know your market with the need for speed is imperative. You can always do more research. You just need to do enough to reasonably get to the next stage of marketing and building.
Market research doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It doesn’t even need to involve 100 people. I like to think that the quality of the research is always better than the quantity of people you talk to. While you can get a lot of information out of Google, having conversations will probably yield far more information—information that probably didn’t even imagine getting. So, talking and listening to people are by far the best ways to understand the buyer of your early-stage company.
There’s nothing worse than spending time getting information just to realize you can’t do much with it. So preparation is worth a million bucks. You might think it’s easy to ask questions, but asking the right questions takes some thought. You don’t want the questions to end up guiding your interviewees to a certain answer. That wouldn’t help you sell anything.
Here are some things you may want to ask them—the keyword always being: Why? Asking why will help you get down to their core motivation.
What is their solution if they didn’t have you? Why is that bad? Why is that good?
How important is a solution to them? Why?
Would they be willing to pay for your solution? How much?
What are problem areas in their life or work? This will give you an angle with which you can connect with them.
People have a tendency to over-shoot on the positivity scale so it’s important to make sure you are getting accurate responses.
Survey or interview?
The inkling to shy away from uncomfortable situations might rage strong in you. For others it might be nothing. There might be a little voice in your head that says surveys are far more efficient, I can hit so many more people in the same amount of time. But face-to-face interviews can go so much more in depth. The conversations can go places you never even imagined (in a good way!). I suggest 10-15 interviews or not stopping until you start seeing some patterns emerge. Then if you see some patterns and want to dig into them more then seek out the right people that will help you further prove the pattern or debunk it.
The motivation to know your buyer should be high now. Resist the urge to skip market research and do as much as you need. Having a week of in-depth conversations with your target market may help you realize they aren’t actually your target, or may give you the aha moment of what the best angle should be. Frequently you won’t even need to pay for these conversations. They can be found in your immediate network or through connections you have. And best of all, you’ll be able to move your company forward with confidence, suffering much lower financial burdens from avoidable mistakes!