On the surface, focusing on your fellow weirdos can seem like a risk only well-resourced organizations can afford to take. When you look at companies like LEGO, Moleskine, and Impossible Burger, you may be equal parts inspired and left feeling like...well sure, they can do that. But what about those of us who don’t have deep-pocketed investors and a runway that goes for miles?
Let’s talk about that.
If you’re responsible for the health and growth of your organization, not knowing how to reach your customers is extremely painful. Your business has real, predictable expenses. When you’re not confident in your ability to reach your customers, revenue feels unpredictable and out of your control.
You may have tried to get specific about your customer, even convincing yourself that you’re speaking to their specific problems and needs. But in the back of your mind, you know you’re not.
You may have a good guess about who your customer is, but you’re scared to commit to serving them to the potential exclusion of others. (And for good reason: what if you’re wrong?) So you speak to them in half-hearted ways, trying to make sure your messaging applies to them and also to anyone else who might be listening.
Or you might not be scared to commit. You may have committed to speaking to a specific customer several times. But then you don’t find people who fit your specific description. Or at least not fast enough to meet your business’ revenue needs. So you revert back to being vague and general when you can no longer stomach the risk of leaving out other potential customers.
Or maybe you’ve given up on being specific about who your customer is, hoping that clever copy, nice visuals, and/or tried-and-true sales language will make up for it.
And here’s what’s even more likely than any of these individual scenarios: if you’re not clear on who your customers are and how to reach them effectively, you end up cycling through all of these phases, endlessly.
If that’s you, ugh, it’s hard. It sucks. I’m sorry. But this is a problem that’s common to all of us, at some point or another. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. And let’s work on changing it.
How finding your weirdos can lead you down the path of truly knowing your customers, maybe for the first time
Step one: Accept the truth.
Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. And be honest.
Do you know who your customers are? Do you know what their biggest problems are in their lives right now? Do you have any indication of what keeps them up at night, what niggles in the backs of their minds, or what gets them excited to wake up in the morning? Do you know the specific ways in which they find you? Do you know what they think about you, in comparison to the other options they have? Do you have any idea what you’re not offering, that they wish they could pay you for?
No? You’re in good company. But until you accept that you don’t know the answers to these questions, you will never learn them.
Step two: Accept that this information is knowable.
The Internet has given us all access to potentially an entire world of customers. And you know what’s bad about that? It’s a whole world. It can be overwhelming, and it can feel impossible to truly know even one tiny slice of that world.
And sometimes this can lead us to (consciously or unconsciously) decide, “Oh well. Since the Internet is so big, maybe if I just put something out there, I don’t really need to know. Something is bound to find its way to someone, somewhere.”
And maybe that’s true. But it’s also an incredibly Sisyphean way to work. Without specific knowledge about your customer, you’re signing yourself up for pushing that boulder up that hill, day after day after day.
You can know your customer. And maybe that hill will still be there, but it’s going to be a lot less steep. And at some point, you’re going to be pushing downhill instead of up.
Step three: Begin on the path to knowing.
Commit to knowing your customer better in a month than you do today, better in six months than you do in two months, better in two years than you will in a year.
It’s going to take some time. But you can start by knowing just a little, and then adapt as you know a little more, and a little more, and a little more.
- Break it down quarter by quarter. When we work with our clients on weird web projects designed to reach their fellow weirdos, we tend to break it down into quarters. While it can feel like a risk to say “These are our weirdos! We’re fully committing to them For Life,” it’s no risk at all to say, “We think these might be our weirdos. We’re fully committing to them for the next three months.”
- Choose a set of weirdos to focus on. Weirdos aren’t found in “people who like our products.” That’s not a weirdo, that’s a customer. Weirdos are “people who geek out on something we also geek out on...and hey our product or service can help them with that.” Weirdos geek out about their weird thing even (and especially) when they’re not on the clock. What weirdos are relevant to what you put out in the world? Which one would you like to focus on reaching over the next three months?
- Choose a set of outposts to focus on. Where are your weirdos gathering online? How can you show up persistently and generously there? How can you talk to specific, individual customers, and find out what’s on their minds and hearts? Not forever. Just over the next three months.
- Create a time-specific (and weirdo-specific) offer. Over the next three months, what can you offer to these specific weirdos that is in alignment with their weirdness? What product or service will feel like a gift to them, even after they buy it?
- Create a generous resource for your weirdos. What can you create for your weirdos that helps them on their weirdo path? Something that everyone can participate in, even if they don’t buy from you?
- How do you connect all of these things together, so that when you’re doing one thing, you’re doing all the things? This is next-level judo skills, but if this seems like a lot, it doesn’t have to be. The trick is alignment. Align meeting your customers needs with helping them be more of who they want to be. Align what you need with what you want to become. Align your work with your play. Align your generosity with your invitation to go deeper.
If you’d like help, reach out to us at &yet. We help businesses big and small figure this stuff out (and make it happen). We’re very into making the world a weirder, kinder place, where all of us get our needs met. Including you.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What does our team naturally geek out about, that’s evident in our products or services?
- Where do our niche interests intersect with our customers’?
- What do our products help our customers be awesome at? (Hat tip: Kathy Sierra.)
- What kind of resource could we create over the next quarter to support them in their quest for awesomeness?