Friday, May 07, 2010

You're (probably) not your target market

Many years ago, my Advertising professor said something that's stuck with me ever since: "Never forget that you're not your target audience." He meant that we weren't representative of the consumers to whom we were advertising, and that something that we really liked might not work at all with our target audience, while something we hated might actually work perfectly.

The lesson applies not only to advertising, but to product and market development as well. We're rarely representative of the customers that we're trying to serve. Product features that we think are essential may be far less so to customers. On the other hand, customers may want or need something whose importance we discount.

There are, of course, counterexamples. For years, HP used a technique called "next-bench marketing": Go talk to the engineer at the next bench, and ask them what instrument, device or feature would make their job easier or more successful. Then, go build what they asked for. The engineer at the next bench was representative of a whole class of engineers at a whole lot of benches, so solving a problem for one of them solved a problem for all of them.

If you're truly representative of the customers you're targeting, then by all means use next-bench marketing to figure out what products or services to make. But be sure that you're not making assumptions about customers that you don't fully understand. The best way is to actually go out and talk to them. Find out their pain points. Let them not only tell you, but show you, how they live and work. You're likely to find out that some of your hypotheses are dead on, and others are way off base. By talking to customers, you can spend more time developing products and services that have a real market, and less time pivoting away from products that "seemed like a good idea at the time."

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Post a Comment