Understanding your customers is key to the success of any business. What makes customer research particularly interesting for a startup is you can be unsure of who your customers actually are or should be and the market you are entering may be very young with limited information.
A great place to begin doing research is online. Simple Google searches about the industry or products you are working on can be helpful, but Cornell also gives us amazing resources via the Cornell library. These databases provide deep insights into different industries, trends, and market sizes.
If what you are looking for cannot be found online, it can be helpful to try talking to people who might have the knowledge you are looking for. Industry insiders may be available to help, or there could be a student or professor here on campus that is an expert in your field of interest.
Surveys, or some way to gauge the interest of potential customers, are also essential. Just because you think they will use your product or you think they are the correct customers based on your research doesn’t mean they agree with you. Talking to the people who might pay money for your product or service will help reduce the risk that they don’t use it. The sooner you engage with your target customer the more time you will save down the road.
Important data points to glean from these customers include their willingness to pay for your product and how often they would use it. Having someone sign up to receive more information in the future does not prove either of these points. To actually understand the interest of these customers, you need to figure out if they would sacrifice time and money used elsewhere.
Throughout this process it is important to keep in mind that your friends may not be the best people to speak with. When they say your product is “interesting”, they might really be saying they like the idea but they’d never use it. These distinctions are very important to pay attention to. After collecting as much data as possible, it is time to go back to the drawing board, make the necessary changes, and ensure that your amazing idea is still amazing.
Understanding your customers is a difficult task and takes time, but it is necessary for success. The better you understand these customers, the more you can reduce the risk of your venture. The worst feeling is creating a product that no one wants to use because it does not address anyone’s needs.