Who are the people that can't live without your product? Why is that product a must-have for them? And what is the difference between these must-have users compared to other users for whom it's just a nice-to-have? These questions are at the root of scaling growth. Find your must-have users.
Yet, when planning target markets, it’s human nature to want to go broad. There is a feeling of safety and comfort. “Why, my product has hundreds of uses, for everyone! Let me list the ways…” But one of the great paradoxes of growth is that, in general, the more broadly you define target markets, the less business you actually take in. It literally pays to get more targeted.
Target Markets: Most Common Pitfalls
There are thousands of courses, books and articles on market segmentation, from classics like Ries and Trout to the trove of knowledge shared by Pragmatic Marketing. Segmentation is a fascinating topic and career marketers spend a lifetime honing the skill. Software companies are usually either 1) pretty good, with room to refine and get more sophisticated about who they target as they grow, or 2) way off, falling into some of the very basic pitfalls:
Fast Personas in just 5 Questions
Most people know personas as a photo of a person with a made-up background, to help "personify" the target buyer or user. They're often thought of as cute, cheesy, nice-to-have. Leadership might see them as a make-work project. And because they can seem like a lot of work and a nice-to-have, they don't get done. But this is a shame, because until you understand the buyer, your marketing and sales efforts are just spewing random information about your company in hopes that something will stick.
There are real reasons why personas should be documented in detail with a photo, a personal backstory, etc. but if this is too much, at least start by answering 5 simple questions:
That's it! By truly, accurately understanding the answers to these 5 questions, your lead generation and sales effectiveness increase dramatically. Thought leadership practically writes itself as it is geared towards explaining how well you understand the buyer's problem, rather than rattling off various thoughts about your own product.
Of course, you need to have the correct answers to those questions, which can only come from primary and secondary market research including talking to real people using product-market fit interviews. The best personas are typically living documents that start by documenting what we think the answers are (hypotheses) and then evolve progressively as you learn more from talking with customers, prospects and non-customers in your target space. You might even discover that the buyer has the budget but isn't really even the one you need to connect with, but rather some influencer persona such as a mid-level manager or channel partner, etc. Along the way, you can also add a photo and a backstory.
Easier Said Than Done. But Just Get Started
It's easier to see the forest for the trees when you are not the business owner. I loved doing segmentation and personas as an employee, until I became self employed. I was shocked at how much harder it is to be objective about what and who you sell to when you're the one with the biggest stake.
The hardest part is getting over the inertia and starting the discipline of understanding real people that need you company the most, and continually refining your understanding of them to fuel your growth. Unless you are selling world peace or the COVID19 vaccine, you shouldn't be targeting the whole world.
Figure out what makes your die-hard users tick, why they can't live without your product. Then start scaling to other carefully chosen target groups. This is how you scale growth.