I love working with startups – the team is always excited and can’t wait to get their idea in motion. It’s also great to hear about up-and-coming ideas that are about to launch; it’s like getting a sneak peek into the tech world. However, one common mistake that I tend to (gently) disagree about with my clients about is the target market. I’ve heard it time and time again – “the target is anyone who likes new technology” or “the target is anyone with a smartphone.” I constantly see teams moving forward without knowing who will use their product or service.
If you can’t give a physical description of your target market, then you’re in big trouble.
Attempting to target “tech users” will not get you anywhere. Why? Because who is a tech user? Everyone. The grandma that uses e-mail is a tech user. The mom who can’t figure out Facebook is a tech user. Mark Zuckerberg is a tech user. So when you say your target market is a “tech user,” you are in real trouble.
The most common defense I hear is that many startups don’t know who will use their product, and they don’t want to leave anyone out. That is fair enough, especially if you have a very unique and non-gender specific product. Though it makes things more complicated, it still doesn’t mean you can target a broad group of anyone that can download an app. And don’t tell me that “Google doesn’t target that small,” because first, at one point, they did, and second, hold off on comparing yourself to Google just yet.
So, if you’re a startup and you find yourself in the above category, don’t worry, there is still hope. If you don’t have a marketing team to help you figure out your target, use the resources around you. Ask friends and family – would you use this product? Try to get honest and real answers, and ask people of different genders to get a wide range of responses.
You don’t have to stop there either. There are surveys you can do (paid and unpaid) online to see who likes what you offer and who doesn’t. You can even set up a street team to ask people in the area if they like what you’ve created. Take the time to compile some answers and really analyze your results.
Once you know who your target market is, you can find out where they are online. Are they women in their early twenties? Then you must be in Pinterest and Instagram. Are they men over fifty? Aim for The Wall Street Journal and print magazines. By knowing who you’re targeting, you’ll know where you need to be.
Many startup founders can become too attached to their product, so they just assume everyone like them will want to use it. But sometimes, you have to step away from your creation to find out who actually will want to take advantage of what you have to offer.