Understanding What Your Startup’s Customers Really Want

Somewhat 500 years ago, we started to accept (or at least some of us) that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Knowing this meant that we could start to really understand what was happening around us. How other parts of the universe are connected to us.

It is quite easy to understand why people believed we being the middle point of everything – naturally, you see the world from where you stand, and it takes a lot of effort and empathy to look at it from any other angle.

As a start-up founder though, the ability to do this can be the difference between raging success or terrible failure.

You are never objective as a startup founder

I recently talked to a startup founder asking me for help to create a marketing strategy for their Saas product. During our conversation I mentioned that he can never be objective about the product as the founder of the company.

He quickly told me he disagreed.

“I am objective. I created the product because I saw a problem that I couldn’t find a solution to. So I created it myself. I know it something that is very valuable”

He and the rest of the team loved their product. And they should – with the right positioning and marketing, it will help a lot of people to save a lot of money and time.

But they’ve worked and lived this project for months. They know everything about it. They see the value in it. They see how it could help others.

But unless they manage to show their right target audience exactly that, they will fail.

To them, their startup is the center of the universe.

What makes people pay for your product?

Before we had money, we bartered. If you wanted a cow, you might have exchanged it for three sheep (I have no idea if that is a good bargain, my knowledge in pre-money purchases is very limited).

Each person involved put a value on their own goods, as well as the opposite party’s. Unless they feel (this is the key-word) that getting a cow is worth more or the same as losing three sheep – the trade won’t happen.

Today you don’t pay for Saas products with livestock. But even though we now trade money for products of services, the concept is the same:

Unless I feel the value I’ll get back is greater than the amount of money I have to part with, I won’t buy your product.

3 questions to put yourself in your customers shoes

Value is individually perceived, not universally set. The more you know about your target market, the better you can provide value. The answers to these questions will help you show your audience how your product will be valuable to them.

Who will get the MOST value from your product?

Unless you are Coca Cola, you don’t have the means to market yourself to everyone. The amount of money you need to pour into marketing to get as many people to choose Coke over Pepsi is massive.

Instead, you need to get as much results as possible, with the least amount of time and money spent. Do this by targeting the audience that will get the most value from using your product.

Imagine you’ve created a tool that can create different social media images from one single design – automatically of course. That would be useful to solo entrepreneurs, as well as product managers in marketing agencies and e-store owners.

But reaching all of those would require talking to 3 completely different audiences and creating separate sales funnels.

Instead, choose the one group that will gain the most – save the most time or earn the most money.

Solo entrepreneurs and e-store owners would get value from it, but product managers at marketing agencies could possibly save the company hundreds of hours each month when their designers don’t have to spend their days churning out social images for all their clients.

What is the most important KPI to them?

Earning more money might be important to some while working fewer hours is the goal for others.

Not having to do certain boring tasks might be worth a lot of money for one group of people. The same tasks might be what others want to do more of.

Some audiences are looking to get more paying newsletter subscribers. Some want to find more consultancy clients.

When you know what they value the most – their goals – you can make it easy for them to see the value in your product:

“Product X costs $39 a month so you only need an extra 4 paying subscribers to break even.”

Suddenly it is very easy for them to see the value.

Are you talking about what they are interested in hearing – or what you want to say?

Look at your products’ sales page. Do you have more “We”, “Us” and “Our” than “You” and “Yours”?

No-one gives a sh*t about you or your company. The only thing they want to know is what’s in it for them.

People have very little time on the Internet. Unless they know instantly how you can help them, they’ll leave.

Don’t waste space by talking about your vision, your story and your fancy rewards.

Talk about the pain-points of your target market, how their lives would look if they got rid of them, and how you can solve it for them.

Why every freelancer should have a Product Ladder

You might not have thought about it too much, but selling a service by the hour (as a writer, designer, coach etc) is a premium product!

It is not cheap (unless you priced it waaay to low) and shouldn’t be. Your knowledge is extremely valuable to someone without that same knowledge and you should price it accordingly.

But because of the relatively high price, not everyone will hire you – even if your work would add value to their business or life.

Usually, this is because of one out of two reasons. 

Number 1: They just don’t have the money. They just can’t afford a premium service like yours. 

Number 2: They are not sure if you are able to provide enough value to them; i.e. they don’t trust you enough to hand over the money. They don’t know if you really are able to help them with your problem.

Is there a way to solve both these issues?

Of course.

Say hello to the Product Ladder!

A product ladder is a way to give potential clients a range of options when it comes to paying you for your knowledge. 

The “ladder” consists of products and services, going from super cheap to really expensive at the top.

Let’s say you are a lifestyle coach. Your product ladder could look something like this:

$5 – PDF template for setting clear goals
$25 – Step-by-step ebook on how to find your passion
$100 – Video course, helping the student realize and solve problems in different parts of their lives 
$250 – 90 minute Skype session with you, where you help them set clear and actionable goals
$500 – 3-month online group-coaching package, together with 5 other people
$1000 – 4-day boot camp at a retreat
$2500 – 6-month personal coaching package

Get what I mean? A lifestyle coach is helping people craft their desired lifestyleand the most obvious way is to do it by one-on-one coaching. 

But there’s a variety of ways to solve problems – or parts of problems. And the best way is to do it with a mix of services and products.

By having different ways to take part of your knowledge and expertise, you give everyone a way to do it – regardless of budget.

But, this is not the only advantage of having a range of services and products. There’s one even more interesting perk with the product ladder approach.

If someone is not sure whether or not you can deliver on what you say you can for one of your more expensive services, they can “try out” your expertise by buying one of the low-level services or products.

When they see that they are getting proper results (only risking a few bucks), their trust in you increases and they feel more comfortable paying for the hi-end packages.

This approach can be used in any kind of freelancing and consultant business, as long as you’ve realized that it is not what you do that is valuable – it is what you know