Defining the potential user/s of their products for startup owners doesn’t seem to be a difficult part. The difficult part to identify the persona of the users and then sticking to them. How many times it happens that startups define users in broader perspective and end up chasing the wrong ones.
There are also instances when startups target an entirely different user segment than the one defined just because it was easier to convert them. In cases like these, it’s obvious that they choose the wrong persona to start with. It may also be that it is easier to sell to your group of friends, but once you get out you realize similar people do not really want/need the product. The most likely scenario is that their initial profiling was just building on their existing bias of who they thought they want to sell to. Good research is the only way to avoid that from happening.
Always, keep in mind that your persona is constantly evolving. Every couple of months or so you should be updating it with new information you’ve learned about your prospects and customers so that it stays a relevant beacon for your business to focus on.
How to create well-defined end user profile?
1. What problem are you solving?
Start with the problem definition framework, where you guide founders to re-frame their idea into a real problem, rather than a solution. A problem is not the lack of a solution. It is a pain that affects the lives of a significant number of people, who would pay money to have it fixed.
As a founder, what you want is not important. Did you start your company with the solution as the center of it and customers rotating around it? Invert that. Start viewing the customer as the hub and the solution(s) rotating around them. Your original idea may not be the best.
2. Who else has that problem?
Have your startup team brainstorm all potential customers. Who can use this idea or technology? Map all your ideas, without restriction. The more specific, the better.
Selecting broad market segments will render them meaningless. ‘Consumers’ is not a relevant market segment. ‘24–30-year-old male, who is online and makes over $75K per year and lives in an urban environment’, on the other hand, tells you something very specific about your customer.
For example, this is too broad of a description for a target audience for an blockchain-based restaurant recommendation app that uses cryptocurrencies:
Men & women over 25 years old who are interested in food + cryptocurrency users/cryptocurrency community
3. Who are you going after first?
Now comes an analysis of each identified market segment, based on a few key elements:
- Are there enough potential customers in that segment to render it viable?
- Are they willing to buy your solution?
- Is the pain they’re experiencing a real pain (or just a minor discomfort)?
- Can they afford your solution?
- Are they easily reachable?
- Can they spread the word to others like them?
It’s here where the pain of narrowing down and the fear of focusing on the wrong segment starts to creep in. Don’t let startup founders fall into this trap. Chasing too many segments or choosing the wrong one is the real risk. Identifying the right one, on the other hand, will guide the development of a product these potential customers will actually buy and use.
4. Developing an end user profile
Here’s where we try to go into as much detail as possible regarding who the potential customer is. To do that, we’ll be creating a semi-fictional profile of the ideal customer based on real customer data and educated speculation. The purpose of this profile is to understand the customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals that will drive these people to choose your solution. The goal is not to have a list of job titles or specific people, but to identify common behavior patterns, shared pain points, goals, and challenges that potential customers have. Every decision regarding product development, sales, and marketing or business development should tie back to this profile.
The first step is creating a list of questions you want the profile to answer. The more industry-specific the questions, the better the profile. For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll be looking at some key, general questions which can be tailored for each specific industry segment.
- Age range
- Income range
- Geographic location
- Work experience
- Social Media Access
While this is some of the easiest information to obtain, it’s not relevant on its own. This quantitative overview is just a small part of who the buyer persona is.
- What motivates them every day?
- What are their fears?
- What do they value most?
- What are their goals in life?
- Is there something that irks them?
These psychological variables will give you a qualitative description of the end user. The focus here should be on the motives behind behaviors. If you’re working with a startup developing a meal scheduling and preparation app, questions like ‘How many meals a day do they have?’ or ‘How much do they spend on takeout’ will be relevant here.
Now that you have spent time thinking about your target audience. You can probably not only outline the basics like age range and gender, but also what your customer motivations, qualities, and vices are. There might even be similar characteristics that the customers share, like they all have kids around 10 years of age or are interested in emerging technology.
This gives you a good place to start because you already know who it is you want to talk to — you just need a way to reach them. A self-service consumer research platform like Hubspot gives you easy access to know more about these customers. You can select your audience, build a survey just for them and get the answers you need quickly, and without huge investment.