This is the fourth article in a small series of punches surrounding April Dunford's Obviously Awesome! and how good positioning relates to good branding. Please read the first article, second article, and third article, before jumping into this one.
You know what the alternatives are, you know the special things that your startup unique, and you've established what makes that valuable. All of these are great, but fall to pieces if no one buys.
The first approach most startups will take in finding customers is shotgunning any and every kind of market. Decent plan of action if you have time to experiment. Truth is, hardly anyone is capable of making this happen effectively, especially when concerned with time. It makes sense to be hyper-focused and test with less variables that you can either pursue further or pivot away from.
Because you need to communicate and trigger a response from someone who cares. Someone who feels that the solution you bring to the table is worth more than the dollars they will pay for it.
How do you do that? You think about them and craft messages around them that fit within their lifestyle.
What kind of person are they? Where do they work? What do they do for fun? What about their life sucks that they want to fix? Your goal is to get to know someone and find out if the solution you provide is of use to them. If not, it might be time to switch.
Tactically, you can do this with interviews within a particular segment or you can think of aspirational personas. The point is to have someone to make stuff for and be targeted. You're chances of hitting something become a lot higher if you know what you're aiming for.
I met with Rocky Roark, a local illustrator in San Diego yesterday (here is a link to his work, enjoy!). As we conversed over Topo Chico and coconut cream iced tea, marketing came up. Rocky has over 40k followers on Instagram and he was shocked I had not made use of the platform for business. It's done a lot of good for him financially. Despite his success, it's still not going to be a part of my life anytime soon.
Here's why: I believe that platforms like Instagram and Facebook have made human social interaction harder and less authentic. The evidence for this is staggering suicide rates and anecdotal tales of the platforms being used to showcase what we wish our life was like rather than connecting with people. It's a mechanism that has propelled isolation and narcissism to heights we could not have anticipated.
I do not like those things. Not everyone, especially not Rocky, uses those platforms that way, but the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that loneliness and depression have skyrocketed parallel to the rise of social media. The thing is, people like Rocky are the exception and not the rule when it comes to those platforms.
I believe the world would be better if those platforms were used less. Granted, my view isn't going to change the fact that millions of people use them everyday, but it doesn't matter. I still believe that to be true. This doesn't mean I have a distaste for people who use the platform. I don't drink alcohol either, but have no problem with anyone who does. It's simply not for me. I'd rather drive to three networking events per week, meet 5 people, and spend 45 minutes talking with each one of them.
Here's the thing:
Have some conviction. If you feel strongly about something, don't let the expectations of others change that. Stand up for it. Defend your thinking. Be a champion for something different. Be a rebel.
Almost every startup has a difficult time honing in on a specific target audience. True to their nature, founders of companies believe so much in the success and impact of their product that they believe everyone could benefit from it. They probably could, but it is impossible to build a brand and targeted a message to someone that doesn't exist.
"But won't I be limiting the amount of people I could help by picking someone so specific?"
YES! That is the point. And I'll give you an example using a YouTube channel I came across recently.
This channel has over 90,000 subscribers and each video now boasts 500,000 or more videos. What is it a channel about?
A Scottish dude who trims the hooves of cows. Yep. He crushes it. All because he makes videos specifically for dairy cow farmers.
Here's the thing, I guarantee that not everyone who watches his channel is in need of his services, but if even 1% of his 90,000 subscribers need his services, he is set for life with a solid base of customers.
If this guy, who targets dairy cow farmers can get this many people to buy into what he's doing, so can your amazing startup. You just have to pick someone who needs your services and cater your message to them.