Mystical Unicorns: Finding the Right Customers

For many emerging entrepreneurs, customers are like unicorns: you’d know one if you saw it, but they’re still mostly fanciful creatures.

It’s time to check your imagination against reality.

It’s time to get out there and find your tribe.

But how? And where?

You already have lots of feedback from your market research so far. You’ve been asking people their opinions of your ideas, from product details to pricing, with the hopes they don’t think you’re nuts.

It’s time to build on that, to get into the weeds of customer identification, which will guide everything from product pivots to marketing to … your future happiness. Just kidding about that last part (maybe). But knowing who your customers are is crucial to your business success.

This is when you leave your bunker and venture out. Remember: you’re trying to build something repeatable and scalable. That requires customers, people who value what you’re selling.

What value are you creating for them?

Seriously, go ask them!

Here are some tips to help you figure out who cares about your unique value proposition, and why:

  • Throw a big net. Want feedback from 200 potential customers? Reach out to 2,000. Think beyond obvious customer categories to users, as well. Not sure of the difference? Parents buy toys, but kids use them. Make sense?

  • Go face-to-face. Children of the Internet Age, listen up: you can approach living people in their natural habitats (cafes, schools, parks) and ask them what they think. In fact, people LOVE being asked to share their opinions.

  • Pick up the phone. Not quite as old school as in-person, but close. And almost as effective.

  • Interview experts. Talk to other business owners, industry leaders and others who know more than you about your sector or business area. Listen.

  • Group think: Host a focus group. The group discussion may generate insights one-on-one techniques don’t elicit.

  • Survey says: Surveys are cheap (free!) and easy. Just make sure they're a good fit for your business idea, and don’t rely on them exclusively.

  • Tap your network. Sure, friends and family are biased, but they know you, warts and all. Accept their insights.

  • The 5 Whys: Ask why, and then do it again. And again. And again. And … one more time.  Eric Ries, author of ‘The Lean Startup’ says this technique digs deep, getting below superficial answers.

  • Location, location, location: Where and how will you be hawking your wares? Online? Then seek out potential customers there. Going to have a storefront? Canvas the local neighborhood.

  • Fake it. Some business ideas can be test-driven. Got a product that can be ordered online? Create a landing page, and see if anyone takes your bait. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.

  • Data crunch: Good news, the era of Big Data means there is lots of information about your customers and their habits. Don’t overlook data analytics in discovering customer needs.

  • Be creative: This is a good time to be different. Innovative outreach is a good way to test assumptions and might even earn you some early loyal customers.

  • Most of all, listen. Attune every fibre of your being to what you are being told. Don’t just hear what you want to.

Your customers are out there. How are you going to find them?

EnglishSarah Short