3 Strategies For Understanding Your Customer So Well That Your Product Will Sell Itself

3 Strategies For Understanding Your Customer So Well That Your Product Will Sell Itself

There’s a great quote from the brilliant management consultant, Peter Drucker, which really summarizes what I’d like to teach you today:

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” ~ Peter Drucker

If you have 100 customers, there are probably only 10 who are actually amazing – your ideal customers.

The goal is to figure out what those 10 ideal customers have in common. Who are they? What are the characteristics that make them up?

Then you can actually do marketing that finds those specific people and attracts 100 out of 100 customers – not 10 out of 100.

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If you look at your day and all of the distractions and the craziness, you are probably spending time with people who aren’t even a good fit for your business!

I really struggled learning this.

When I was 26, I started a company and built a marketing tool and thought FOR SURE our customers were going to be small business owners.

I was passionate about helping small business owners.

I remember sitting down with one of our customers to do an in-person interview. We had booked a bunch of small business owners at a coffee shop where we would sit down and show them our marketing tool – a landing page app.

When I showed the app to him, he just looked at it and went blank. Then he asked what he was supposed to do next. I told him to just click get started and then he could choose a template for his landing page.

This guy didn’t understand what a landing page was. He didn’t even have the need. He didn’t even know why he would use this!

And I had thought FOR SURE every small business owner needed landing pages so they could capture leads when they were running paid traffic to their website.

It was a horrible experience, however, one that provided great learning.

It made me realize that instead of trying to guess who my customer was, I should ask them.

I could show them the product and ask them who they thought the customer would be or who they thought the product would be for.

A small pivot changed the direction of that company.

It ended up being that it wasn’t the small business owners who were our customers, it was the marketing agency that they hired to do their marketing.

Once we got clear on who our ideal customer was, the business took off.

There are 3 strategies that I have learned to get feedback from my customers, so I can really understand what our ideal customer looks like.

1. Face Time

Sitting down in someone’s office and watching them interact with our solution is one of my favourite things to do.

This can be done at a coffee shop, or anywhere that you are sitting down, face to face, watching them.

This also works if you are in retail, or have a restaurant – sit down with a customer after they’ve experienced your product or service and talk to them.

When we were doing these customer interviews we always asked the customers to bring their laptops.

This one guy blew my mind. He had like 15 tool bars in his browser!

Essentially half of the browser page was spyware that somehow he had collected over the years on his computer – so our landing page pushed everything down!

I never would have learned this without sitting face to face and watching them.

Another strategy is something I call, “Smile and Dial.”

Every Thursday I get 6 or 7 names from our recent customers over the past 2 weeks and I just call them.

Here’s the trick: If you are the founder or the CEO – don’t tell them.

If they know you are the founder or CEO, they won’t give you real feedback. They won’t want to hurt your feelings – knowing that you created the solution that they are using.

“Smile and Dial” is a way for me to really understand who my core customers are.

2. Ask Them In a Survey

Another strategy is a bit more hands off… you can survey them.

I’ve done this recently with my blog. I sent out a survey to 1000’s of my readers and viewers and asked them about 18 different questions.

In the technology world there’s something called a “customer discovery survey.” You can check it out at survey.io – it asks some really amazing questions and you can customize it to your company.

It is a really simple way for you to understand who your core audience is. For example, I asked them what some of their top challenges were and what question they would like to ask me.

My favourite question was, “How do you explain our company or service to a friend?”

Think about that!

Knowing the language your customers use to explain your product to a friend is very valuable.

If you looked at over 100 responses, you could figure out what language you could add to your homepage or to your description of how your product or service works.

It’s a really amazing and intimate way to understand your customers.

3. Researching their “likes”

This is probably my favourite way to get to know my customer – and it might sound a little creepy at first – so hold on while I explain…

If you have customers – or you have friends who should be customers – go to their Facebook page and check out their “likes.”

Most people don’t even know that the information is there for everyone to see.

Look at all of the different “likes” – what your ideal customer loves – for example: artists, music, tv shows, authors and public figures.

What I typically do is look at 10 different ideal customers and write down all of their likes. Then I look for the commonalities – is there a theme? Are there actual people, tv shows or services that they all seem to love and use?

This gives me a lot of insight into my business and into who my ideal customer is.

These three strategies will help you to know and understand your customer. And when you figure out who your core customer is – who is best suited to use your product – it will sell itself.

Please leave me a comment below letting me know what your biggest take away was from this video.

Exclusive Bonus: Download a free bonus video where I share 3 key types of content you should use to grow your business.

  • yazinsai

    Great post, as ever Dan! I find that, even after reading the Lean Startup and the Four Steps to the Epiphany, I still forget to spend time with customers — amid all of the hassle of the day to day.

    I think that Smile & Dial routine is brilliant for keeping that top of mind, and I’ll definitely give it a try.. Thanks!

    P.S: I’m really, really curious — your new startup?

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell


      It’s easy to forget what works… I call these Business Fundamentals, essentially the habits that lead to our success. Too often I see people who had success in the past stop doing the “habits” that allowed them to progress.

      Talking to customers is definitely on that list 🙂

      I’m not working on a new startup.. just a passion project.

      If you’re on my email list – you’ll learn soon enough.


      • http://www.vinishgarg.com/ Vinish Garg

        I like the way you call it ‘passion project’. We have weekend projects, side projects, hobby projects, and now ‘passion project’. Cool. 🙂

  • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

    It is always fascinating and troubling that startups don’t have a strong grasp of their customers – their needs, interests, problems, responsibilities, roles, etc. This is a topic that I focused on in my book, Storytelling for Startups – http://www.storytellingforstartups.ca

  • http://fancyish.com Ashley Baxter

    Never would have thought to look at people likes on Facebook. Great suggestion and thanks for sharing! I’m in the process of starting an online biz and struggling to force myself to just go ahead and get my product out there. If you have a program (not SaaS) what are your thoughts on giving the product away to a test market as you refine your offering?