For a startup, especially in the early days, one of first things you need to determine is how you will find your ideal customer. All companies have an ideal customer, even those who market and appeal to several demographics.
What all companies have in common is that at a certain point the founders sat down and asked the questions: “who is our customer and where do we find them?” In fact, these questions are almost universally addressed in every business plan.
If you’re struggling to find the answers, consider the following ideas.
Look to Your Competitors
Unless your company is launching a truly unique, never-before-seen concept, odds are you have competition. From the perspective of finding customers, this tells you two things:
- There’s already a market for your product
- Someone has already been able to attract them
If your competition has customers, you already know where some of them are. To take a direct approach: names and links to professional websites and blogs can usually be found through testimonials on product pages, tweets made at the company on Twitter, and promotional photographs and endorsements through Instagram.
For a more passive approach, look at what your competitors are doing in terms of marketing and customer acquisition. Are they running online ads regularly? Do they have an active and engaged social media presence? In the offline world, do they focus on radio or television ads?
This can be useful in determining what your competition has deemed an effective use of their customer acquisition budget. It may not dictate that you do the same thing, however. Instead, it may reveal areas of opportunity that your competition has neglected.
Small Fish, Big Pond
If you have the resources and opportunity available to you, a true customer-acquiring tactic for startup companies is to make yourself a large fish (or the only fish!) in a small pond. If there is a need, customers gravitate to where a product is available.
If the market in your area is oversaturated with competition, consider moving outside their area of influence. If your product or service relies on the internet (SaaS) or products sent through the mail, consider looking to underserved areas and focusing your efforts there.
Physically moving your company may not be possible. However, if your particular city is overrun with competition, look outside the city and see if there’s a potential customer base present that has been neglected.
Become One of Them!
One of the best places you’re going to figure out who your customers are (and find your customers!) are at events. Whether these events are on a local level, a regional level, or the national level; finding events that encompass what your business is about and attending them is a good way to increase your knowledge, and potentially drum up more business.
While trade shows might not be the cheapest tickets, they’re even more expensive as a vendor. Solution? Don’t attend as a vendor. If customer acquisition is your goal, attend an event as an average customer.
Look around to see what your fellow customers are gravitating towards. See what people are wanting, and figure out where your company and product falls within the context of the industry.
What’s more, pay close attention to how the vendors present themselves and their product. What tactics are they using to approach potential customers? Ask yourself if their methods are working, and if there is a way you can adopt a similar approach.
Finding Your Customer is Half The Battle
Once you have a better idea of who you need to get your product in front of, it will also become easier to sell your product to those customers. It will also make identifying those who aren’t necessarily your customers much easier, too.
In summary, figuring out who your ideal customers are and getting in front of them is hard work. With a little bit of creativity and forward thinking, you can find out who your customer is, where they are, and most importantly: how to reach them.