Entrepreneurs commonly make the mistake of assuming that they know what their clients’ needs are and build out their product or service before ever actually talking to a potential customer. If you finalize your product before talking to your customers, there is a good chance that you will build something that they do not want or need. Your product may not solve any of their actual problems. Keep in mind that your ideas about your product are valuable, but your customers know their wants, needs and frustrations better than anyone. It is important that you take the time to listen and get feedback from people in your target market before diving into product development. 

Find a Problem to Solve 

The key to building a great product is to identify a major problem, pain, or frustration that your target market has and to identify or create a solution that will solve that problem. Customers, especially business customers, will happily pay money for products that address significant problems they currently struggle with if it saves them time or money, or both. If the people in your target market have a headache, they will gladly buy Tylenol(R) from you to make their headache go away. Your potential customers will be more than happy to tell you about the problems and frustrations they have. 

For example, when I was launching the premium version of ARN Daily Premium, many of my potential customers told me that they were frustrated because there were no single comprehensive resources that had a full summary of all of the stock research notes that brokers publish on a daily basis. As a result, one of the initial product goals for ARN Daily Premium was to provide the most comprehensive coverage of stock research reports. By having a clear understanding of what problems your customers face, you will be able to build a product that effectively addresses their issues in order to keep them coming back as your customer. 

Talk to Potential Customers 

I recommend that you meet with at least three people who could potentially be consumers of your product. If you are building a product that helps dental offices with marketing strategy, go out and interview three different dentists. Start with a list of five or six people you want to interview, knowing that a few of them will likely turn down your request. When you are planning your meeting, tell them that you are developing a product for their industry and you would like their input. Do not try to sell them your product when you first meet with them. At this phase, you are only trying to gather information. Make sure to take notes during your meeting so that you remember what each of your interviewees said. 

I recommend asking these questions to the three people that you interview in your target market: 

  • What are the most pressing problems you have?
  • What are the most frustrating aspects of your business?
  • What are you doing now to address the issues that you mentioned?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of your current solution?
  • What potential alternative solutions could more effectively address your issues?

If your interview is going well, you can feel out the following questions to help you identify potential marketing channels. Again, do not try to sell your product or service here. 

  • How do you find out new information about your industry?
  • Are you a part of any professional groups?
  • Do you subscribe to any trade magazines or visit any industry websites on a regular basis?
  • Do you attend any conferences or trade shows?
  • Who makes the purchasing decisions in your organization?

After asking the other questions first, tell them about your current idea for your product or service. Ask them if it would solve any problems for them. Ask them how they would improve your product to better fit their needs. Pay attention to their reaction to your ideas and write down any suggestions they may give you that would fit their needs. Be sure to thank them for their time. 

Find Online Professional Groups for Additional Feedback 

If you are building a product for businesses or any type of professional, consider using LinkedIn groups as a way to get additional feedback about your product or service. I have a friend who is building a marketing service for massage therapists. He posed a couple of open questions on the American Massage Therapy Association LinkedIn group and received fifteen responses to his questions in 48 hours. While online professional groups are not a replacement for meeting with your customers in person, they can provide confirmation about what you have learned in your interviews or generate better questions to ask your specific target market. 

Follow Up 

After you have conducted your interviews and have a better idea of what kind of product or service you should create, follow up with the people that you interviewed at a later date. Tell them about the product or service you are building and ask whether or not it would solve their current problems. If you plan on pitching your product when you follow up with them, ask them to commit to buying when you meet with them and get their first payment if possible. If they tell you that do not want to buy your product, be sure to ask for the reasons why. This could be one of the most helpful pieces of feedback that you get. 

Action Steps: 

  • Interview three potential customers in person.
  • Confirm what you have learned from your interviews through online discussions.
  • Follow up with potential customers to tell them about your product and receive feedback if you give your sales pitch.