What's more important than selling your product or service? Nothing, right? Not quite.
All too often, founders focus on selling, but they don't focus on who is buying their good. The public can be your target audience one day, but it's a poor choice for your initial audience. Such a broad category is unlikely to resonate with your specific mission initially.
Know the details of your target audience early. There are many names for this group of consumers -- Ideal Customer Profile, High Expectation Customer -- the list goes on! While each term has its own specific definition, there is a common thread that every company needs a customer who will go to bat for the product and represent the brand.
Finding this customer is easier said than done. Here are 3 factors to consider when searching:
Geography. A simple way to find your target audience is to ask yourself how consumers in your local area can benefit from your product or service. Consider dockless scooter provider Bird which has grown meteorically -- it brought a convenient and cheap last mile transportation service to Santa Monica. Why Santa Monica? It's flat, urban, densely populated, and lacked a viable mode of last mile transportation.
Bird was able to cater to the constraints of the area and ultimately give consumers a reason to use its service. Additionally, Santa Monica residents hyped the brand through word-of-mouth marketing (we've mentioned the importance of word-of-mouth marketing here), by telling their friends throughout the entirety of Los Angeles.
The result? People across town began to anticipate the arrival of Bird in their neighborhood!
The strategy has worked: Bird has raised $115M in venture funding since February and has expanded across LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Austin, and we expect it to become a staple in most major cities soon. But it was this deliberate launch in Santa Monica that allowed Bird to gain traction!
Psychographics. Brands look to particular demographics -- such as age, income, profession, or race -- to buy their product. While this can be helpful, this classification can be a bit misleading. Beyond the simple demographics, brands need an understanding of customers' psychographics, or the reasons why they should buy the product.
In other words, ask who would benefit from your product? Consider WildEarth, the startup maker of vegan dog food. That might seem like a strange concept at first glance, but it actually makes a lot of sense.
With the rise in plant-based diets as part of the greater focus on health, it's natural that consumers would share their health concerns for their pets. This creates WildEarth's target audience: health conscious shoppers (composed namely of the millennial demographic) who are willing to pay a premium for their pet's health.
The target is distinct, obvious, and not too small! The ideal audience is not anybody with a dog; that's simply too broad. If veganism continues to increase in popularity, then one day the general dog-owning public could become WildEarth customers, but that can't be the initial focus.
Competition. Or lack thereof. If you can't identify any direct competitors, you may have found a white space. But be careful you're not creating a product without a market! If the former is the case, your target audience will be similar to the customers that tangential competitors serve.
What do we mean by that? Consider Good Catch, the vegan "seafood" provider. While plant-based beef alternatives have gained traction in recent years, the seafood space is largely untapped, and Good Catch is seeking to conquer that nascent market. Good Catch also has a clear understanding of its target audience -- those who enjoy plant-based beef are likely to enjoy plant-based seafood. Look for it later this year in stores near you!
Beyond being your early adopters, your target audience will make your life much easier, as they'll conduct word-of-mouth marketing and spread your brand image. At the end of the day, finding the correct early adopters is essential to grow your company.
While we discuss how to find your customer in this post, we'll discuss in our next post how to get them to come back again, and again, and again.