Today, we’ll look at how you can research your market and your specific target companies. Let’s continue with our example. Suppose you defined your market as companies tackling the last mile problem and are specifically interested in ZipCar, Uber, Segway, and Citibike.
Talk to your customers’ customers.
If you are trying to understand this market, you can start by talking to your customers’ (your target companies’) customers directly. In this case, head over to 4th and King in San Francisco (or the equivalent in your city) and talk to some train riders. Ask questions along the lines of:
- Where are you going?
- How are you planning to get there?
- Have you used that form of transportation before?
- Tell me about how you made this decision.
- How satisfied are you with this option?
In less than 30 minutes, you can get a lot of real-world context about the people experiencing this problem, how they currently approach resolving it, and what solutions are most common.
Scour the Internet
Are people writing about this problem? What are they saying? In this day and age, where everyone has a blog or tweets or shares on Facebook, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone sharing their experience. Find them.
What are the most common problems? What are the pain points? What are the hacked together solutions people are sharing with each other? How does this line up with what you learned first-hand at the train station?
Work to create a complete picture of your customers’ customer. I’d even go as far as creating a customer persona.
But don’t stop there.
The internet is full of great information. What can you learn about the companies themselves? Who works there? What skills do they already have on their product teams? What gaps do they have? How does that line up with what you have to offer?
Spend some time on LinkedIn. Map out each company’s product team. These are your future coworkers. Imagine if you already worked there. How would you work with them? Again, what do you have to offer that they might need?
All of this, will become part of your story.
Connect with employees at your target companies.
And now that you have some context, get out of the building and talk to your customer (your target companies). Find some people who already work there. Get an introduction. Introduce yourself.
Don’t ask them for a job. Ask them to tell you about their job. What do they like? What do they dislike? What do they see are the company’s biggest challenges? What are their biggest challenges?
Spend more time listening than talking. Don’t sell yourself. Instead focus on learning as much as you can. This is an informational interview for you to learn about the company, not a job interview where you sell yourself.
Finally, bring it all together.
Spend some time reviewing what you learned. What does your customer (your target companies) need? How can you design a product (you) to meet that need?
Now don’t get me wrong. You aren’t changing who you are. If you aren’t in a good position to meet that need, find another market. But if you can help them address an unmet need or close a skills gap, then by all means, position yourself as their ideal solution.
In the next post, we’ll look at how you can do that. We’ll work on crafting our story. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.