Do You Really Understand Your Customer?

Here are two sure-fire ways to understand what customers really want, what's lacking in your offering and what features can meet those needs.

You’ve spent months creating a great product. Your startup is ready to launch. Your product is sleek, sexy, and useful. Your assumption is — people are going to go nuts over this!

Guess what! It doesn’t always happen this way. The biggest mistake many startups make is to assume their big ideas translates into something people actually want. No wonder startup-guru Paul Graham’s motto is “Make things people want”.

But how can you make things people want:

  • After months of perfecting and developing your product?
  • When you have to let go of an idea — the source of motivation and drive — you’ve had for a long time?

Let’s stop and really think about this … Gosh! So many books have been written about this topic. In fact, the whole “Lean Startup” canon was designed to solve this problem of “What do you do when your idea does not match customer expectations and wants?”


Great ‘Startup’ Expectations

There are many ways to address this question, but we can simplify it by one simple concept:

The one thing that many of today’s entrepreneurs are missing is empathy with their user.

Not empathizing with your user (i.e. customer) means that on a cognitive level you haven’t really let go of your idea to understand what users want. You recognize something is slightly wrong (i.e. low engagement, poor acquisition rate, and so on), but you aren’t ready or willing to meet customers where they are — with what they need.

So, here are two sure-fire ways to understand what customers really want, what’s lacking in your product (or service), and what features will meet those needs:


1. Entrepreneurial Imagination & Empathy

We have all heard of empathy. It’s a human capacity to identify with the feelings of others. It’s present in all of us. But when we speak of empathy within an entrepreneurial aspect, we mean two essential things: Imagination and mutual recognition.

Imagination means that, as an entrepreneur, you know what it means to be your user. Ask yourself, why are they using my product? What brought them here? Information is essential, but experience is even better. If you’ve been in the shoes of your users then you know, for yourself, what it is they need. Keep this knowledge front and center to every decision you make.

Constantly ask yourself “Why would someone use my product or service?”

Until you find a good answer; unless you know what made them come to you in the first place, you cannot entirely empathize with them. The best bet is to connect with users — not a friend or family member — actual (potential) customers who will put your startup to the test!

Pay attention to them, how they use your product, what features they like the most, or what makes them excited about your startup. Imagination is a crucial component to conceive and form an idea of the value your product offers in the marketplace.


2. Recognition & Empathy

Another, equally important, aspect of empathy is to recognize that users can be right. This doesn’t sound groundbreaking, but it is surprising how many entrepreneurs get stuck on their ideas and forget about the user.

Recognition implies that you might be wrong. You have to accept it.

To truly understand the strengths and weaknesses of your startup, you have to always ask yourself, “Am I over-obsessed about this idea or is it a real thing my users want?” This is probably the highest hurdle, because you will never truly recognize and admit you are wrong about your idea, but you still have to try.

It is crucial to pay attention to what users are telling you. It can be as straight-forward as an email or as indirect as observing user behavior with your product or service.

Consider this: Do they come back to your website after sharing your content with their friends? Do they scroll through your website and click on key conversion pages?

Understanding how and why users do certain things will help you create a distinct and appealing offering. If they want less features, for instance, you need to be sensitive to their cause. That’s what recognition is all about.

If a customer tells you something it can unveil something, otherwise, that would have gone unnoticed. It’s either a push because they see a spark or a dive because they don’t. When that happens be ready to accept possible shortcomings.


Gil Dantas is the co-founder of Notelr, and is head of Marketing and Customer Relations. She was born and raised in Brazil and has a degree in economics and political science.She has worked closely with non-for-profit organizations and startups in both Brazil and Canada.


© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.


In this article