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  • Wei-Ling Chiu

Wanna buy a widget, mister?

Image: Infoheap

You’ve got a business idea, you’ve started working on the perfect pitch deck to get the funding you’ll need to grow, now it’s time to start with the really important question - who is your ideal customer?

Ideas and investors are good things but without an ideal customer to spend money on your product, your business will be short-lived.

Don’t ask your mom

Start with asking yourself a few questions: Do you identify with the problem? What aspect of your life does it affect? Then ask your friends, family or colleagues. But not mom, who you know will be nice because, well, she’s your mom. Ask the people you know will be honest with you - most of your friends and family won’t.

This is a learning expedition so ask questions, don't tell people what you think, you want their honest, unfiltered views as much as possible. There is a nifty tool for this too. Go to Strategyzer and download the customer pain trigger questions. Practice them - a lot - and use them often.

Defining your buyer’s persona

Don’t pause until you have had twenty of these conversations. Don’t try to shortcut the process by inviting everyone to a free dinner. Be wary of ‘group think’.

Once you have a consistent set of replies, as outlined in our first blog in this series, you can start defining the human buyer. Map out their age, gender, income, title, ethnicity, any ‘human’ factor that is relevant. I don’t know how to define AI buyers yet (although we are thinking about it).

If your model is business to business rather than business to consumer, define the industry, company profile, revenue, number of employees, role the company plays in its sector. Then define the human in the company i.e. the company buyer using the same parameters you would to define a consumer buyer.

But, this is just the start

We’ve learnt the hard way that this is just the start of refining your customer persona. Your first customer persona is not likely to be your ideal customer. You need to think ahead and take steps to keep refining this persona, and evolving it as your business evolves.

Make a complete list (or subscribe to one)

To better understand your ideal consumer, look for social media groups that you can (politely and respectfully) get involved in to get to know your possible customers better. Listen and learn and take the time to improve your presence in these groups and your connections.

In the business space, try out the LinkedIn sales navigator on a one-month free trial. Pay attention to how long it takes you to start making connections in the space you need to be in.There are best practices you can refer to to help get the best out of your efforts. There are also experts available to help you. I’ve used Upworks (for $5 an hour) and am also loving using Lusha for building my target lists.

Once you've got a list, split it up

Maybe you have 2 000 individuals or businesses on your list, maybe you have 200 or even 20. You can’t converse with all of them at the same time, which means you need to segment and prioritise. Start with the segment that you think will make the most revenue and be convinced fastest, and work outwards from there.

Beware the lure of going big fast however; many a startup has died a brutal death in that valley. Slow is fast here.

And finally, before you head out there, write down who it is that you are speaking to, what it is that THEY are buying from you and lastly, and most importantly, WHY are they buying from you (what is so special about you?).

Essential reading to help identify your ideal customer:

  1. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

  2. Strategyzer Trigger questions


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