From Idea to Inception
You’ve hit on a great idea for a business. You’ve thought long and hard about your product or the service you plan to offer and you’re excited to take the next step towards starting your own business. So what’s next? How do you go from ‘good idea’ to ‘successful business’? Next step is to find your customers and what they want.
Among the many important factors to build into your ongoing business plan, it’s vital to dedicate as much time and energy as possible to identifying and getting to know your target customer base. Customers are the lifeblood of any business and the more you know and understand about yours, the more clear your path to success will be.
Finding Your Customers and What They Want
Every business, every product, every service has a target audience. It may be that you plan to target businesses (B2B), or that your product is designed for consumers (B2C), or maybe both?
Ultimately your goal is to sell to your customer base, ensure that they are happy with your product or service and hope that they come back and shop or work with you again? Simple. Well in order to sell to your customers, it’s vital that you get to you know your target audience in as much detail as possible. Getting to know your customers means understanding what they need, why they need it, and how you can get them to engage with your business.
– Define your product or service as if you are your own customer
Easy right? Of course you know what your product or service is, you came up with it after all! But in this case, you need to imagine yourself to be your own customer. How would your customer describe what you’re selling? It’s likely to be slightly different from what you think you’re offering them.
Imagine for example that you have developed a home hair product that allows consumers to do their own root touch up in a way different to anything else on the market. In your business plan, you’re selling a revolutionary hair and beauty product. In the mind of your customers however, what you are actually selling them is a saving of time and money. To your customers, rather than spending hours with a stylist every 8 weeks, they can invest in your product, do their own hair and save money and time while doing it. Recognising this means your target audience changes. Instead of targeting young women, interested in new hair and beauty products, you may actually want to target time-poor women (mothers, working women) who will be looking for a solution that allows them to maintain their hair colour for less time and money.
– Identify and research your target audience
Gathering as much detail as possible on your target audience is essential. The more you know, the more successful you can be in marketing to that group.
A great way to research and organise your customer information is to develop ‘Customer Personas’. That means describing who your target audience is in demographic details such as age, sex, location, job and income, home ownership, whether they have children, do they travel with business etc. If you have several different groups of customers, make sure you create personas for each. One group may include other businesses so the persona description will be very different to a purely consumer group. With businesses, you might want to consider how long they’ve been in business, how many employees they have, what industry they are in, who their customers are etc.
If you’re struggling to establish who your customers are and to flesh out their personas, it can be useful to look to any competitors you have in the market. Identify a business that you consider as your direct competitor, look to who their customers are, who do they engage with online, who reviews their products or services? It’s a great place to start in order to establish who your customers might be.
– Next level characteristics
You’ve developed your customer personas which include lots of factual demographic information about them. Next stop is to consider all the ‘other’ things that make them relevant to your product or service. What are their values, what environmental concerns do they hold, what are their buying habits, when and where do they spend time online, what lifestyle choices do they make, what are their pastimes? Once you gather this information and build it into your customer personas, you very quickly know a lot about the person you’re selling to. You can start to consider why it is they will want to buy your product? What is it about your product or service that is different to everyone else? And what problem are you solving for your customers? All of these details are invaluable as you progress with your marketing plans.
– Content and marketing strategy
Now you know who your target audience is. You also know your own product or service and what it’s unique selling point is. Next step is to put the two together. How do you get your product in front of the target audience you have identified?
Using all the research you’ve amassed, you can start making your content and marketing strategy. The more detailed the targeting information, the better. Even huge corporations can’t afford to market to the whole population so using every detail of your customer personas to streamline your marketing approach will yield benefits in the end.
Decide how you’re going to communicate with your prospective customers. What platforms will you use? Will you invest in a PR campaign or focus solely on digital content and advertising? There are many marketing options available to small new businesses and knowing where your customers can be contacted can help inform which you choose.
Once you’ve done so, flesh out a rough monthly schedule including all the content you are planning to use. What will be your measurements of success? Will it be a click to your website? A purchase on your online store? An enquiry into your services? Once you know that, you can evaluate how your marketing strategy is working and make changes accordingly.
It’s all about your customers
Conceiving of a great product or service is not enough to make a successful business. Just like setting up a great website does not mean that you’re guaranteed web traffic. Knowing and understanding your customers is however one thing that every successful business has in common. So spending time getting to know who you’re selling to will better inform every decision you make. From improving your product offering to developing a marketing plan, scaling your business to weathering the storms of crisis. The more you know about your customers, the better placed your business is to succeed.
Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.