Define your customer to refine your product

This follows on the concept my prior post about ensuring your product solves a problem and amazes your customer. Now, it’s time to define your ideal customer so you can fine tune your product so it blows their mind.

First question: Are you making this product or service to solve one of your own problems?

If yes, then it’s easy. You can envision yourself in the third person and answer the following questions for you. If no, then imagine your ideal customer and imagine answering these questions as them. Keep in mind, the word “problem” simply refers to the pain point the customer has that drives them to find (and pay for) a solution.

  1. What is the problem to be solved?
  2. Why is it a problem?
  3. How big of a problem is it?
  4. What is the ideal solution?
  5. How is it a solution (saves time, money, frustration, etc.) and how much of a solution is needed to erase the pain?
  6. How much is the solution worth?
  7. Can you charge that much and still make a profit?
  8. How will I learn about the solution?
  9. How will I purchase the solution?
  10. Will one purchase solve my problem, or will it be ongoing?

Remember, you’re answering these as your customer, not necessarily for yourself. Let’s illustrate this with two examples – one for a service, one for a product. We’ll save the marketing of your solution for a future post.

EXAMPLE #1: SERVICE

Let’s say you want to start a service that provides turnkey podcast creation, complete with graphics, editing, uploading, website creation and social media marketing. That’s a complete service, sold as a package, not a la carte. Who is your ideal customer?

I imagine it’s someone who has enough experience and intelligence on a particular subject matter, and they are motivated to share that knowledge with a wide audience in order to produce some tangible return (fame, money, etc.). They are busy, so they don’t have the time to set up the podcast themselves, nor do they want to learn how to do it, but they have the financial means to pay someone else to do it.

Using the checklist above, you can identify the problem as a lack of both time and desire to do the production work. They just want to focus on the content and not get bogged down in the day-to-day promotion and management of it. They are motivated to start, so the problem is large enough that they’re ready and willing to pay for your service.

With that in mind, you can tailor your product to solve their problem. Begin with an upfront package including name and logo creation, intro/outro music, basic recording equipment and software, basic learning materials (e-book, startup checklist, best practices guideline, etc.) that you’ve created to get them started. Then, offer various per-episode packages that takes their raw audio and yields a professional, finished podcast that’s uploaded to iTunes, etc., and has a website with episode-specific graphics.

This also has opportunities for upsells like detailed blog posts per episode, social media and PR efforts to promote it, etc. Either way, you’re setting up recurring income, and by choosing only motivated clients, turnover should be lower. Prepaid 10- or 20- episode packages help encourage them to continue with it and keep using your service for the long term.

What’s this worth? Depends on how the client is valuing the service. Are they looking to sell sponsorship and ads? If so, your price needs to allow them to do that and still make a profit. If they’re only looking for recognition, particularly if it’s an institutional podcast rather than individual, then that can alter your pricing. You also have to figure out how long it will take you, how many clients you can have at one time, and then figure out your own revenue goals. Ideally, there’s an agreeable intersection of numbers.

EXAMPLE #2: PRODUCT

For this example, let’s say you have a cafe/bakery and have too many friends asking you for a birthday cake at the last minute. Talking to other parents at school, you notice lots of them wait until too late and end up with a generic grocery store cake.

Your ideal customer is someone who’s very busy – working, shuttling kids to practice, squeezing in a little fitness, and managing a household. They get rushed and forget things. But they don’t want to screw up important events like birthdays, graduations, etc. They place a priority on serving quality, tasty food and desserts and they stress about serving sub-par refreshments, but they don’t have time to make it themselves.

What is the ideal solution? Perhaps it’s an app-based ordering system that provides pre-set party packages based on event type, with scalable portions by number of attendees, options for dietary restrictions, but overall a limited (but quality) menu that can quickly be chosen, customized and ordered for pickup or delivery within a couple hours. For cakes and cupcakes, options like colors of frosting, cake type, toppings and message can all be quickly decided with a drop down menu. Maybe it’s guaranteed within two hours for pickup.

This solves the stress and time limitation problems, and gives you the opportunity to charge a premium for speed and convenience…and for “saving” them from waiting until the last minute. Adding on drinks, cups, plates, utensils, etc., provides additional revenue opportunities.

COMMISERATE, THEN COMMERCIALIZE

These are just two examples. Imagine who’s walking in your door (literally or figuratively), then commiserate and empathize with them. A grocery store cake is a solution if I can walk in, have my son’s name iced on it and walk out 10 minutes later. But it’s not an acceptable solution for everyone. There’s room in the market for solutions at each price point. Find your niche by knowing your ideal customer, seeing the problem through their eyes and creating the best possible solution for them.

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