Reaching your target customers. This post presents 3 steps for reaching your target customers or audience to proliferate your new product, or idea.

3 Steps to Reaching Your Target Customers

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I recently saw an inspirational TED talk by Sunjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, who is an educator and a social entrepreneur. He started what he calls the barefoot movement in India. It was later spread to other parts of the world including Afghanistan and Africa.
 
His primary idea was to create colleges for the poor in the rural villages of India. These colleges teach only what the poor thought was important to them. These topics include specific professions needed by the people of these villages, such as school teachers, midwives, dentists, health workers, solar engineers, water drillers, masons, water testers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and more.
 
They also introduced vital new technologies to these villages, including the use of solar energy for lighting and cooking.
 
This story has many great lessons. I would like to focus on one in particular. And that’s the challenge of reaching your target customers or audience to proliferate your new product or idea.
 
This challenge is common to almost any company, and it’s particularly vital to start-ups.
 
You’ve created an innovation that solves a real problem for your target customers. Furthermore, you’ve developed its unique value proposition, and have generated an attractive business model. You even had a successful pilot deployment. Now it’s time to expand your product’s adoption and reach a larger number of your prospective customers.
 
But how?
 

Three Steps to Market Adoption

 

Based on my own experience and that of successful viral marketing campaigns, such as Facebook, Ford Focus, and Waze, to achieve a wide market adoption you should follow these three steps:

  1. Know your target customers/audience. Study your customers well enough to know what are their problems, needs, and priorities. Ideally, you should “walk in their shoes” to see the world through their eyes and understand what’s important to them. Bunker Roy left his affluent home to live in a rural village. That’s how he could identify the real needs of the poor and come up with the idea of the barefoot college.

  2. Identify the most effective channel of communication to reach them. Learn how your audience prefers to get new information, and who influences them most. Is it best to reach them via e-mail, social media, or specific bloggers? Bunker Roy realized that in the rural villages of India the best means of communication is not television, nor telephone, it’s “tell a woman”.

    Also, try to exploit common motivations and behaviors within your target customers. Waze targets daily commuters who share a common motivation for avoiding traffic jams and shortening their commute times. They also take pride in finding new routes and sharing them with others.

  3. Identify and recruit your initial “evangelists”. Once you’ve chosen your channel of communication you then need to “seed” your campaign.  You need to find and recruit your “ambassadors”. They might be influential bloggers, popular university students (Facebook), or in the case of the Barefoot College, grandmothers.

    Where possible, try to leverage existing networks. For example, Facebook initial adoption was in US universities where students use intranets and internal e-mails to share information. They also leveraged the universities’ social networks of fraternities and sororities to create a viral adoption through word-of-mouth.

When you provide real value, it can easily scale and proliferate via viral networks. But at the end of the day, you must first provide your customers something they truly need and want. Moreover, their overall experience with your product and your company must be very positive.

 
Otherwise, even the most effective communication tools, and the most passionate “salespeople”, won’t help your product get widely adopted.
 
The success of the Barefoot College is due to the fact that it teaches skills that are needed by the community it serves. And in doing so provided a valuable service to them.
 
As Bunker Roy says: “You are certified by the community you serve.”
 
What valuable service are you offering? To whom? How would you best reach them? And who are the “grandmothers” who will become your ambassadors in the market place?
 
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