Below you’ll find an unedited chapter from my upcoming book 40 Rules for Internet Business Success. To receive updates about the book and get a free digital copy of my book in its current form, enter your email address in the sidebar to the right.
Don’t make the assumption that you know what your potential customers are thinking. You might think that you have a pretty good grasp on your potential customers’ wants and needs, but you won’t be able to say for certain until you take the time to talk to listen to them directly. Entrepreneurs commonly make the mistake of assuming that they know what their clients needs are and build out their product or service before ever actually talking to a potential customer. If you build out your product before talking to your customers, there’s a good chance that you’ll build something that your customers don’t want and doesn’t solve any of their problems. Your customers know the their wants, needs and frustrations better than anyone. It’s important that you take the the time to listen and get feedback from people in your target market before diving into product development.
Find a problem to solve
The key to building a great product is to identify a major problem, pain or frustration that your target market has and to identify a solution that will solve that problem. Customers, especially business customers, will happily pay money for products that address significant problems that they have. If the people in your target market have a headache, they will gladly buy Tylonel(R) from you to make their headache go away. Your potential customers will be more than happy to tell you about the problems and frustrations they have. By having a clear understanding of what problems your customers face, you know that you simply need to build a product that effectively addresses their issues in order to gain them as a customer.
Talk to potential customers
I recommend that you meet with at least three people that could potentially be customers of your product. If you’re building a product that helps dental firms do marketing better, go out and interview to three different dentists. I suggest identifying five or six people you want to interview knowing that a few of them will likely turn down your request to interview them. When you’re able to meet with the people that you want to interview, tell them that you’re planning on building a product for their industry and tell them you would like some feedback and input. Don’t try to sell them about your product when you first meet with them. At this phase, you’re only trying to gather information. Make sure to take notes in your meeting so that you remember what each of your interviewees said.
I recommend asking these questions to the three people that you interview in your target market:
- What are the most pressing problems that they have? What are the most frustrating aspects of their business?
- What are they doing now to address the issues that they told you about?
- What do they like and not like about their current solution?
- What potential alternative solutions could more effectively address their issues?
- Ask questions that will help you identify possible marketing channels. How do they find out new information about their industry? Are they part of any professional groups? Do they subscribe to any trade magazines or visit and industry websites on a regular basis? Do they attend any conferences or trade shows?
- Who makes the purchasing decisions in their organization?
- After asking all other questions, tell them about your current idea for your product or service. Ask them if it would solve any problems for them. Ask them how they would improve your product to better fit their needs.
Find Online Professional Groups for Additional Feedback
If you’re building a product for businesses or any type of professional, consider using LinkedIn groups as a way to get additional feedback about your product or service. I have a friend that’s building a marketing service for massage therapists. He posed a couple of open questions on the American Massage Therapy Association LinkedIn group and received fifteen responses to his questions in 48 hours. While on-line professional groups aren’t a replacement for meeting with your customers in person, they can provide confirmation about what you’ve learned in your interviews.
After you’re done with your interviews and have a better idea of what kind of product or service you should create, follow back up with the people that you interviewed. Tell them about the product or service you plan on building and ask whether or not it would solve the problems that they have. Don’t ask your customers if they would buy your product, because they may lie to you to spare your feelings if they wouldn’t buy their product. If you plan on pitching them on your product when you follow up with them, ask them to commit to buying when you meet with them and get their first payment if possible. If they tell you that don’t want to buy your product, the reason why they won’t buy your product could be one of the most helpful pieces of feedback that you get.