Every early-stage marketer should be completely obsessed with what their prospects and customers think and how they behave.
When you’re starting out, you won’t have much meaningful data or insights to model customer behavior. Instead, you’ll need to model this yourself by interviewing customers or prospects and teasing out information about how they learn about their problems and buy software to solve them.
Unless you want to waste time sharing messages and campaigns that no one cares about, I suggest you run customer interviews too. With limited time and resources, and so much to prove to the market, early-stage marketers need to do everything they can to narrow their margin for error.
If you’re having trouble convincing your team that you should be doing customer interviews, show them this table.
How to define your audience
Before you know how to interview customers, you need to know who to interview. To do that, you’ll need to define your audience.
Right now, you’ll be in one of these positions:
- Pre-customer: You’ll need to speak to prospects to find out more about how to reach your target audience.
- First 25 customers: You’ll need to find out as much from this group as possible and try to find more customers like them.
- More than 25 customers: You might have a few different types of customer, and need to prioritize which group you target based on how valuable they find the product, how much revenue they contribute, how easy they are to service, and how large their combined market size is.
Whichever it is, we’ll go through the steps you should take to find out everything you need to know about your customers and prospects, and how you can differentiate your brand from the competition.
First, you need to define who your best-fit customers are. This audience may be smaller than the total market you can sell your product to, but when you’re starting out that focus is helpful.
Marketing legend Seth Godin says it best: “Drop a teaspoon of dye into a swimming pool, and all the water in the pool will become bright purple. But if you drop it in the ocean, no one will notice.”
It might not seem like a blessing, but finding a swimming pool is one of the only advantages you have as an early-stage marketer. That’s because well-defined groups are often underserved by larger brands who are trying to turn the ocean pink, so they’ll be more responsive to messages and campaigns that target their unique situation.
Here’s how to find your swimming pool (while avoiding larger bodies of water for now) by grouping customer types:
- They use your platform to solve the same specific problem.
- They rave about your platform and refer you new business.
- They spend big and there are opportunities to expand the size of their account.
- Their requests for new features are similar.
- Their brand names are significant to one another (for example, they’re in the same sector). This builds consensus in the market that your software is the first, most obvious choice.
- They were relatively easy to sell to because the need for your product was clear and understood by all buyers.
- They are better served by your tool than your competitors’ software (be honest here).
Hopefully between sales, product, marketing, and your founders and advisors, you’ll have a good grasp of who fits your target audience vs who doesn’t. You’re not starting from scratch, of course: your product was developed to solve the needs of a specific audience.
If you don’t have many customers or none of your customers have much in common, you might want to draft in some prospects. Pull some favors to get the calls booked, reach out to them to offer a voucher, or cold call them (not the easiest way, but folk were very sympathetic when I tried this!)
Don’t be too concerned if you end up speaking to customers who won’t fall within your ideal customer profile. Chances are you’ll need to qualify some folk out of your target audience after you speak to them. Recognizing the differences that disqualify folk is just as important as understanding the similarities that include them in your target audience.
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