Love your Customers by Creating Products With Them in Mind
Do you love your customers?
Why are you in business? To make money? Sure. But it’s also likely that you are interested in providing a product or service that either solves a problem your customers have or gives them an experience they will enjoy.
Take a great eye cream. Depending on the ingredients, it could solve many problems, like brightening the appearance of dark circles or minimizing the look of those laugh lines found on many of us over a certain age. The cream may be a dynamic duo eye cream and concealer. No matter what, you will design your eye cream with different ingredients based on whatever problem you’re solving. What you won’t do, is not consider the end user and what they think they need/want, how they will use the product, and how much they will pay for it.
What problem are you solving?
I come from the software technology industry. I spent 20+ years helping create requirements for software applications and websites. The first question we tried to get right was, “What problem are we solving?” By spending our time really honing the answer to this question, we could then work on the solution knowing we were actually going to have what product managers call ‘good product fit.’
If your target audience is the millennial generation, you won’t want a product full of ingredients for mature skin. You’ll want ingredients that meet the millennial skin care and body care requirements. You’ll also want to make sure you’re bringing the values millennials crave: community, sustainability, transparency, choice, and experience. If you get it right, your customers will LOVE you for loving them.
How do you get a good product fit?
- Create a buyer persona
- Develop a good problem statement
- Validate your thinking
Creating a Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Writing a narrative about your customer will help you keep your customers in mind when you’re developing products or shaping your customer service policies.
Get into the details. The more you can help everyone who touches your brand understand who they are talking to and what motivates them, the more your brand will come across as one that loves your customers. I like to talk about the difference between Costco and Nordstrom. The same person may shop at both stores, but they expect and get very different experiences. And because Costco knows what motivates their shoppers, as does Nordstrom, neither has built a business that tries to be something it isn’t. They have great product fit.
Start by knowing who you’re talking to. What do they value? How do they engage with your market segment? Your competitors? What problems do they have with skincare and body care? Where do they buy their products? Go beyond the obvious and think about their education level, the kinds of activities they do in their spare time, where they shop, what food do they eat? Are they politically active? Or travelers? Sports fans? All this helps you build your persona.
Marketing Sherpa has a good article on Personas showcasing how beauty brand H2O+ uses personas to increase their sales.
Here’s a mini persona example:
Jenna Hernandez is a 26 year old single Latina woman who is active in her community volunteering for literacy and the environment. She has a full time job as digital marketing manager, working with consumer companies who want to reach the Latina community. She is fluent in three languages, English, Spanish, and French, and holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from a state university. She is on a co-ed soccer team and loves to travel, watch films, and cycle and ski. She is engaged to be married next year. Jenna and her fiancé shop at Trader Joe’s, Market of Choice, and occasionally at WholeFoods. They want to have healthy, natural and organic food and skincare, but don’t want to spend a lot of money as they are still paying off student loans and want to buy a house after they are married. Jenna wants to take care of her skin because she likes the natural look and doesn’t want to wear a lot of makeup. But she finds it cumbersome to carry all the skincare products to the gym, the soccer field, and on her travels. She also worries about all of the product she throws out because the bottles stay on her counter.
Jenna would love to have an easy, on-the-go solution she can toss in her gym bag or keep in her desk at work for those long days. She’d also like to reduce how much she wastes and how much packaging she throws out.
Creating a Problem Statement
A finely crafted problem statement is a work of art. By honing that statement you can zero in on the opportunity and you get clarity about why your product has to include x vs. z and why it can’t have Y. Start by describing the idea state your customers want re: your product or product segment. Explain the root of the problem– the barriers to that idea state, and the cost of not getting to that idea state. Use research and data to back up your assertions. Then propose a solution and the benefits of that solution. Then try to summarize all of that in a succinct statement.
When we go to solve the problem, we can reduce Jenna’s person to an audience segment titled “On-the-Go Millennial Women”. We then study up on the Millennials, learning what makes them tick. A great book for generational understanding is by sociologist Anna Liotta Unlocking Generational Codes. It’s a great resource for understanding all the generations we market to, work with, play with, and interact with on a daily basis in business, community, and family. By understanding Jenna’s generation, we can begin to write problem/answer statements that take the levers that spark t his broad market segment to act.
So an On-the-Go Millennial Women Audience could be described as:
Millennial women are on-the-go. They value experiences over possessions and are willing to spend money to look and feel good, as long as it’s easy. They are environmentally and socially responsible and look for innovative ideas that suit their busy lives. Millennials are loyal to causes, not companies, and are motivated to purchased based on customer reviews and recommendations from trusted friends, rather than from the company marketing a product.
And Her Problem Statements might look like this:
The problem of [a lot of different products in my skincare routine] means [I don’t take as good of care of my skin as I’d like, especially when I am going to the gym or when I travel.] By [reducing the number of bottles and jars I have to carry], I will [take better care of myself, increase my confidence, and I will throw away less unused product, reducing my environmental footprint and saving me money.
The problem of [many skincare products is that they are either filled with ingredients that aren’t good for humans or for the environment, or they are too expensive.] As a result [I hesitate to buy products and when I do, I don’t feel confident about them, and they go unused.]. If [I could buy a set of products that are affordable, portable, and healthy, and be confident they are friendly to the planet,] I will [use my skincare regularly, and buy more when I need it.]
Once we have the problem defined, we need to start looking for validation. Let’s take two possible ways to solve Jenna’s problem. There are numerous solutions to any problem so let yourself brainstorm and get input from customers and mentors. Most importantly, be authentic to yourself and your brand, and be realistic about what you can deliver. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a big dream and a big vision, but it may mean you need to start by solving one aspect of the problem first.
- Create two- or three-in-one products, like an oil cleanser that doubles as a face and body oil, cuticle oil, hair oil, and that her boyfriend can use in his beard if they’re out together for a weekend getaway.
- Create fun, sturdy on-the-go size containers that can be refilled at the store, and bulk containers for sitting on retail shelves. This reduces waste, keeps her product fresh, and saves her money.
With two solutions in mind, it’s time to test the validity of our thinking. Talk with your current customers. Validate the problem statement and the proposed solution. Get the customers talking using open-ended questions. Surveys are great, but for this, you may want to also have live conversations with your customers. Talk with your target audience where you find them– a political event, a concert, the shopping mall. Set up a booth at a local fair and give people a small gift/token for talking with you. People love to be part of something new and love to help. Ask friends to host an afternoon tea with their friends who meet your target audience. Talk to your the parents of your kids’ friends. You don’t need to be a market research specialist to get good market data.
After you have some initial validation, you’ll also find that your persona, your problem statement, and your solutions may need to be tweaked. That’s great! You’ve got real live feedback. You can start testing marketing messaging by typing your phrases into Google and seeing what comes up. Ask questions on Twitter and Facebook. Hone your value proposition — your solution, and then you can start creating your product.
The truth is, if you’re like most of us, you’re doing some of this all the time. The world of beauty and fashion change quickly and trends come and go. You’ll want to be incorporating new ideas and concepts into your product line.
We’d love to know how you develop new products and services. What techniques do you use to make sure you’re creating a product customers will love?
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