You may have heard the philosophical question, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” It has been argued for generations and today I am going to ask you a similar question. If a business has no customers is it really a business?

Instead of spending time exploring that we shall try to avoid ever being in that position. The way to do that is to create a create a profile of your ideal customer prior to building your product and starting your business. The set of ideal customers is called your target market.

Building a customer profile will provide you knowledge that will help you overcome many of the obstacles that stand between an entrepreneur and success. You will learn what problems your customers are looking for a solution for, get customer input that helps shape your prototype as you build it, and learn what language your customers use that will help when you start marketing your product.

Now we shall go over the process for building a profile of your ideal customer.

Build a Customer Profile

Start building your ideal customer profile by listing out their characteristics:

  • Demographic (age, sex, nationality, education, religion, income)
  • Geographic (city, state, country, urban or rural)
  • Psychographic (interests, hobbies, values, behavior)

One you have an idea of your “ideal” customer you can take it one step further to the profile of your “perfect” customer. This is the person that is going to be your first buyer (often referred to as an early adopter) who needs your product so badly that they will overlook any initial issues as they are getting so much value out of it. This person will also be someone who recommends your product to others (word-of-mouth marketing).

If you were designing a new athletic shoe your ideal customer might be a high-school basketball player who wants the feature that makes your shoe unique or just a pair that will stand out when on the court. Your perfect customer might be the sneakerhead that will line up overnight to buy your shoes the day they go on sale and spend the following weeks telling everybody how great they are.

Mock up a Twitter account

Social media is an increasing important way to connect with your customers and right now can help you learn about them. Start by creating a fake Twitter account for your perfect customer based on the profile you just created. Ask yourself:

  • What hobbies do they list in their profile?
  • What celebrities do they follow?
  • What brands do they follow?
  • What do they post about?

Based on that you should try to find five to ten Twitter users who are real people that can be your first customers!

Customer Feedback Cycle

Unless your product is very niche (a very small, specialized market) you will hopefully have more than one target market that will find value in your product and become your customers. So repeat the process of creating an idea customer profile a few more times. For example if your product is a phone app for sharing short videos your original ideal customer might have been new parents sharing videos of their babies with family. You could also do profiles for skateboarders sharing videos of themselves doing tricks, cooks sharing videos of recipes, or language teachers helping student learn new words.

For each of those additional profiles you should do the fake Twitter account exercise and find five or ten people for each new profile. You’ll end up with twenty to thirty people who will potentially be your first customers. Reach out to them and ask them for feedback on your idea. Even if you are shy you will be glad you did this as you will find that people love giving their opinions and are happy to answer a few questions.

Lastly, stay in touch with the people you reached out to. Let them know about your progress and keep incorporating their feedback as you build your product into a successful business. This way you already have customers waiting and will never be in the position of having a product you cannot sell.