Business Essentials

Identifying your Customer

How well do you know your customers? This guide is designed to help you work out who they are and what they want.

As an entrepreneur, your main focus should be on the customer…  Who are they?  How do you reach them?  How do you sell to them?  And, how do you keep them? 

The most common mistake to make is thinking that everyone is your customer.  Whilst your product or service might appeal to a wide variety of people, or eventually be used by a lot of people, starting with a small core customer group is one of the best strategies for success.  By honing in on a group of like-minded individuals, you can focus your efforts on understanding them and viewing your business from their perspective to meet their needs. 

Here are some tips to get you started: 


What problem are you solving? 

Your business idea should solve a problem or meet a need.  If you are unsure what that is, start by analysing your product or service.  Ask yourself: ‘What is the benefit it provides?’  Dig deep, don’t stop at the first benefit, try to understand what the benefits are, in turn.  Here are some examples:

Service-based example:

If you are a photographer who offers headshots to businesses, the benefit of the service is providing professional images of staff.  These photographs can be used by businesses to communicate a professional and trustworthy image in order to gain more customers and make more money.  As the photographer, your core customer market would be businesses with customer-facing employees, who are looking to grow.

Product-based example:

If you have a mail order food subscription business, the benefit of the product is food direct to your door.  This food can be delivered at a date of choosing, preventing trips to the supermarket.  The added benefits could include healthier eating, trying new food/recipes, less food waste and stress-free mealtimes.  So you can gain an understanding that your core customer market would be people responsible for cooking in their household, who are time-poor but enjoy cooking and eating good food.

Depending on your business model, you might find that you are solving problems for more than one type of customer.  In that case, make sure you differentiate between the needs and benefits for each.  


Understand your customer

A great way to help you understand your customers’ needs is to develop a persona for them.  This will give you tangible characteristics and scenarios to base any business development or marketing decisions on.  You can use your own knowledge to get started, but it is important to validate the information by talking to real customers.  This can be done face-to-face, with observation and data collected from questionnaires or research from other sources.  Remember to build empathy by thinking about their emotions as well as their demographics.  

Source; Design A Better Business

Creating a customer persona

A customer persona is a fictional representation of a business' ideal customer; they are generally based on user research and incorporate the needs, goals, and observed behaviour patterns of your target audience.  One tool that we think is really useful to help you develop one is a Persona Canvas by Design A Better Business.  It can help you to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and provide you with a really clear overview of their motivations.  

Here’s how we would recommend completing the Persona Canvas:

  1. Start with the customer’s name, age, gender and role (relevant to your business).  
  2. Get visual with their appearance.  Are they happy or sad?  What are they wearing?  Create a realistic image to support the demographic information.  
  3. Move to the outside sections and consider their external environment.  How are the trends affecting your customer? 
  4. Headaches and opportunities refer to their current life experience.  Think about family, work, lifestyle, etc. 
  5. Hope and fears are their thoughts and feelings about the future.  
  6. Finally, draw all of the information together to create the customer’s need in the heart of the persona. 


Try it as a group activity - fill out the persona with others so that you can discuss what kind of experiences they might have and how that might make them feel. 

Be selective, think about the persona in context of your business idea, including information that is relative first and then widening your lens.  

Try it for yourself 

Download the Persona Canvas from Design A Better Business:

Persona Canvas

Use this online tool from HubSpot to create a virtual:

Make My Persona

Do you have a viable business?

After all of this in-depth customer exploration, it’s time to take a look at your business plan and sense check your idea.  Consider these questions from

  • Are there enough people who fit my criteria?
  • Will my target really benefit from my product/service? Will they see a need for it?
  • Do I understand what drives my target customer to make decisions?
  • Can they afford my product/service?
  • Can I reach them with my message? Are they easily accessible?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions then you might want to start thinking about how you can pivot your idea to address the issue.  If you have more than one customer market, what considerations do you have to make to ensure everyone's needs are met?  


In summary, the knowledge you have about your customer should underpin every business decision you make.  Understanding your target market can be the key to converting them into customers.  And by reviewing your customers needs often it can help you to stay relevant to retain them.  


Next steps? 


We run business bootcamp called Starting Up Saturdays to help new businesses develop their venture building skills, including identifying your customer.  Find out more and apply here:

Starting Up Saturdays

Online Learning

Learn more about creating a Customer-Obsessed Culture in your business with this free course on Hive Learning Hub:

Hive Learning Hub


Find out more about communicating and reaching your customer in these articles: 

Building your BrandTop Tips for Marketing & PR

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