In the last two weeks I have been asked to either mentor a young person or speak to a group of young people and give them some thoughts, ideas and considerations that they can apply to their own lives. The questions have been great and varied, and there has been a theme come through in the answers to many of those questions, which is – Go and Ask. And actually this is applicable to all of us when we are making our next step or starting out.
Some have been seeking guidance around what they should do as they graduate to find the job they want. My advice – research who is out there (businesses, organisations, people) and then go and ask them about what they do, and what they look for a new recruit.
Some have been seeking advice around setting up their own social enterprise or developing their product/service. My advice – Go and ask the people you think are your customer or beneficiary of your social enterprise/social service. You can also ask those that work with or inform your customer (the style makers, the influencers). Find out what they need and how they need it (their pain point), and then use that to inform the development of your product/service/social enterprise and how you market to them.
Essentially all of this is market validation. Whether you are trying to create a social enterprise to save the world, create a business around a product or service, for find the next step in your career path, it helps to do a little market validation. So here is a 3 step guide based on my own experience of building my own businesses and social enterprises, and in working with clients.
1 – Work out what it is you are trying to ‘sell’
This is often obvious, but it’s good to spend a little time thinking about it, and fine tuning your description. If it’s your professional self as a self-motivated, proactive new recruit; or if it’s your service as a whizz digital creative; or if it's an amazing range of recycled glassware. Whatever it is, work out your clear and concise description, then test that out on your friends, family, and maybe a couple of people twice removed to see if they understand what it is – e.g. your friends parent, or your parents friend.
2 – Work out and research who you think will ‘buy’
Think about your 'customer'. Who is the one who is going to be paying money for what you offer, or getting the main benefit. Whether you’re looking for a new job, or you’re trying to start your new social enterprise – your ‘customer’ is the most important person to focus on.
Do a description of them. You can start with a broad ‘grouping’ description, but then try and break it down and describe an individual person in that group.
Then research them, where are they, what are they doing, how do they buy/get your service now? Find out as much as you can about them. Also consider it might be more than one group – so do this for each ‘group’.
If you’re looking for the next step in your career (or the first step), then who are the companies (or the people) out there that match your description? What do they do? Where do they do it? Who are the people doing the job you really want to do?
Also consider the people that influence them. E.g. stylists, bloggers, change makers etc. They will have another perspective that will be both interesting and informative.
3. Go Ask Them.
Look at how you can reach them to ask them some questions.
If it’s the new job you’re after, find someone who does it already and ask them how they started, what their pathway was, and what they believe is important for their job/career/profession. In my experience most people will be completely okay giving a little of their time to talk about themselves.
If you’re trying to get information about customers ask some of the ‘influencers’ for a coffee and pick their brains. They often have a wealth of information that you can draw on. Spend some time talking with your customers or future customer. Go to where they are, take a short survey, or ask one or two key questions. E.g. if you have just made the most brilliant cup holder for push chairs, go to a Plunket play group, or Playcentre and ask the mum’s.
Here are a few examples from my experience.
1 - I recently worked with a jeweler and in their research he found that stylists have a part to play in influencing people who buy jewellery around what is in and what is hot. He also found a photographer whose main work was jewellery photography. What he discovered in talking with them was what was trending in terms of materials and design, and more importantly that his style lent itself hugely to men’s jewellery, and that there was little in that market that matched what he was doing in terms of design and quality. So it opened up a niche for him to explore further, and informed his design and manufacturing process.
2 – With a furniture maker I worked with we went to interior designers, retail stores and other complimentary designers that were aiming at the same customer. What we found was that the materials he was using divided people, they either loved it or hated it. So he had a choice to keep with what he was doing or make a change. We also discovered two distinct markets – the domestic/home market and the corporate market, and within those two room for both a bespoke range and a more of a flat pack mass produced range.
3 – With social enterprise Take My Hands we knew there was a great supply of a huge range of medical equipment we could access. So we spent some time visiting health clinics in the Pacific to understand their need. We saw the environment in which they work, and understood far better what kinds of equipment would work and what kinds of equipment simply would be unused or unhelpful in those environments. We also get needs lists from them directly so that we know exactly what they are looking for, and we are meeting their need and not just collecting or sending medical equipment they can’t use.
Hope this has been helpful.
Posted: Monday 7 May 2018