How to Learn What Your Customers Really Want

As a web designer, I can appreciate the hard knocks small business owners experience when launching their first products or services.  Many have worked hard to create great web content for their customers.  They have put together sales pages and articles, asked for criticism, worked through all the issues.  They have been brave, leading webinars, publishing papers, blogging often, building a following, and ultimately, launching a new item.

Nobody wants to face it. But it happens to many new offers:  no sales.

First, Give Yourself Credit for Having the Courage to Stand Up

Putting up a new product or service takes courage.  It takes guts to put your hard work in the marketplace and be exposed to the risk of the dreaded silence from buyers.

Why, despite all your best efforts, does your product suffer this fate?  Why should your product not succeed as well as the guru’s around the corner? How can the guru sell out of a $2000 product in a few hours, which may be a mere transcript of a seminar, while your hard work languishes?

You put just as much work into your product as the big-name authority around the corner.  So what is the difference?

The problem isn’t about your product.  Most likely it’s about the fit with what your market wants.

A smart businessperson falls in love with the market, not the product. Fall in love with your buyers. Watch them, listen to them, cherish them. Figure out ways to surprise and delight them.

This advice from Sonia Simone in The 3-Step Cure fo No-Sales Syndrome sounds good.  But how do you learn what your customers really want?

How can you learn from no sales?

When You Sell Nothing, You Can Learn 3 Things That Make You Stronger

Turns out, you can learn (at least) 3 key things from a product with no sales.

Insight 1: Check how much other buying is going on to meet the same need

Weigh the competition serving the same basic needs.  Check whether there is a lot of competition for an offer like yours.  Simone suggests looking for basic human desires: status, feeling safe, better power to attract. Are there other products like yours, designed for the same needs in the marketplace?  If not, it’s a good sign you may be pitching to a market that won’t support you — because it isn’t supporting anyone else.

How do other products promise to serve the basic needs of your target customers?   Those needs are the ones people are paying money to satisfy.  You’re seeing the vitality in your market.

Insight 2:  Learn to write more directly to answer a buyer’s need

When you’re ready, see if you can feel out what buyers in your market think they need. This is what they want.  It may not be what they really need.  When you have what you think is a good guess, reverse-engineer a product for that need.  Simone calls this the “Minimum Viable Product.”  It’s a way to test whether your idea for a product will work.  What if this doesn’t sell either?  Check your copy writing.  That’s your ability to help your customer see himself in a better world, with your words.  A quick formula for writing that should improve your results: The 1-2-3-4 Formula for Persuasive Copy.

Now check.  With real people — in the real world, inexpensively. In Testing Your Website Before Launching, Ian Dooley recommends a great way to get meaningful objective feedback at very low cost

  • Pick Fu: this service is based on Mechanical Turk but provides a framework for getting feedback on any question in an “A/B” fashion (ie. which logo do you like best?), and the promise of “$5.00 for 50 opinions” up the top of the page was just too good to pass up!

Insight 3:  Invent trial balloons to test your fit without burning yourself out

Simone suggests taking on weekend-sized projects to come up with a product to test your fit.  You can learn a lot about your audience and your market even with a few results.  Let it go — write a landing page, email your contacts, blog, share it.

This isn’t the most comfortable process.  It’s a process of picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and starting over.  Only, the tactic is to make smaller efforts at a time.  Efforts you can sustain, repeat, and learn from.

I like the ‘product in a weekend’ idea. Do you?  I wonder how many guides there are in the marketplace for creating a high-value information product quickly.  My guess is there is a strong market for guides to creating downloadable products that sell.  To take my own advice, a good place for me to start would be to check how many guides to ‘create and sell downloadable products’ are already selling well.

2 Responses to “How to Learn What Your Customers Really Want

  • The basic human desires are not as “basic” as you might think.

    For example the desire for status is not universal. A good-size chunk of the population does not care about status.

    The desires of customers are based on their personality type. When you match your product or your marketing to the personality type of the prospect, now you got a magic bullet.

    • Thank you for reminding us to look at personality types. It is amazing how easy it is to overlook what is really motivating people in our market. Or to guess wrong. Agreed – the desire for status is not universal – among people – and may only matter in very limited ways for those who do care about it.