There is an old joke, “How do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time!” The wide range of possible customers* is like that. You will have dreams of many, many customers. The challenge is figuring out how to capture them in bite size (i.e. manageable) groups that are realistic and don’t overwhelm your venture.
Thinking about sub-groups is one way to to achieve this. A sub-group is any group of individuals who share common traits. Traits can include demographics (age, gender, socio-economic status, occupation, nationality, etc.), psychographics (activities and hobbies that they have in common), behaviours (shared behavioural patterns), or location (where they are physically location).
As a new venture or an existing venture that is looking to reach new customers, the first step to getting your customer groupings into a manageable bite-size pieces is finding the subgroup within your potential customers that share the traits of your ‘early adopter’ customer.
What is an ‘Early Adopter’ customer and why do you need them?
|‘Early Adopter’ Customer Traits||Your Needs as a New Venture|
|They are very passionate about the need you are addressing||The less passionate people are about an issue, the less likely they are to want to change. That means you could spend a ton of time and money trying to convince them to try your product. As a new venture, you don’t have that luxury. The more passionate someone is about what you are selling (really annoyed about the problem your product/ service solves) the more likely they are to try it and, if it’s good, love it. Seth Godin’s Ted Talk is a clinic on this: http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_sliced_bread|
|They are willing to test new (i.e. unproven) things||Passion is a good start, but not good enough. After all, if they are passionate about another product that already solves the problem you are addressing, their passion is a closed door, not an open one. You need passion plus an eagerness to try unproven things.|
|They are willing to give you feedback||There may be a huge difference between what you think a customer wants and what they really want. You need to find if you are right or wrong on this as quickly and cheaply as possible. As a result, you want customers that are also eager to talk to you about your product.|
|They are seen as an authority on this subject by others||For any venture, the more its customers recommend it (ideally, rave about it) to others, the stronger it will be. What’s more, as a new social venture, chances are you don’t have a lot or any money to spend on marketing. That means word of mouth will be key, and ‘early adopter’ customers are both willing to talk about a product and have the authority where their recommendations will get others to try your product/service.|
Please note that, while these characteristics often go hand in hand sometimes they do not. One thing to look out for when deciding if your proposed group may be more than one segment is whether serving the customers within that group requires you to do things differently (for example, group A would access your services online while group B would come to your offices). In this case you may be looking at more than one segment and may need to decide whether serving both these groups makes sense for your venture at this time. Another avenue to better understand your customers/ the needs of different customer groups is through interviews, check out this fantastic article to learn more about developing and interpreting customer feedback.
Having a thorough understanding of your ‘early adopter’ customer will allow you to dive deep into learning the needs of this group and assure that your offering aligns with those needs. Additionally, as an organization that is looking to start-up a new social enterprise or expand a current one narrowing your focus and capitalizing on opportunities to learn allows you to test and improve your offering on a smaller scale with fewer risks than trying to fulfill the needs of all audiences on day one. To learn more about about the potential users of your offering and reaching additional segments, check out Ain’t No River Wide Enough: How Social Entrepreneurs & Social Innovators Cross the Chasm.
*This article is going to delve into your customers (the person/ group who purchases your product or service), if you are currently grappling with the distinction between the beneficiaries and customers in your social enterprise model check out our blog on differentiating between your customers and beneficiaries for more information.
Christensen, Clayton M., Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David. S. Duncan. Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. HarperCollins, 2016.
Godin, Seth. “How to Get Your Ideas to Spread.” TEDx, Feb 2003, accessed from https://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_sliced_bread
MacMillan, Ian and James Thompson. The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook. Wharton Digital Press, 2013.
Moore, Geoffrey A. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers. HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.