Who is your customer?

  • People don’t share your exciting toddler video that much
  • They don’t show up on your awesome park cleanup party
  • Don’t buy coffee from your shiny machine
  • Don’t download your super useful app

And you’re like “Why don’t they – I love that shit, that’s why I’m sharing!”. You’re kind of right with this but only in your pretty little world.

My story

Recently I’ve decided to change my life a bit by starting a side project of my own. The idea is to have a vending machine serving quick and healthy meals at low cost (and eventually becoming free for people through cross-subsidizing that). I imagined everybody being customer of my service in the sense that everybody gets hungry on a regular basis (my time for that is 2 hours).

Long term vision is to demonetize food supply if you know what I mean :D. Don’t bother, the previous sentence is just a bunch is startup slang.


Short term is to have buckwheat vending machine to satisfy my demand.


Image: rice and curry

Marketing, go away!

“Our product is for everybody. Thus our market is the world and we’re aiming to get 1% of that really soon” (c)

When I hear this from other people, I consider it a rookie startup mistake. It was very insightful moment for me to discover the same line of thinking in my brain. If you’re a software engineer, marketing is not trivial :)

Luckily I have a very good UX designer friend. I initially approached him with the hope of making the device smoother for use by people (“I have a great product, let’s make it feel like Apple-grade design”).

As an unexpected result, he also made me think hard about identifying a very small group of the early adopters for my product (people call this segmenting your customers).

What for segmentation is needed?

In my case, the thing is that once I will get my device on the streets, not everybody will be similarly likely to use it in the first days (hey, I still don’t have a Pinterest account and they’re on the market for years with all the marketing and stuff).

Lack of initial followers is what poses a problem for a young startupling. By default most of the people assume that actions of other people reflect a correct behavior (google for Social Proof). Not using your new service is thus a correct behavior. Which we know is not good for business :)

Image: adopters curve per diffusion innovation theory.

I read this picture as the following: as a marketer, I should identify a group of people which can be the most easily convinced to use my service. By ease I mean with as small budget as possible.

Another cool group to be attracted early are those who are eager to pay upfront. Usually that means people are having acute problem of some sort which costs them a lot of time, money and/or their mood. This makes them benefit from my success which is a recipe for strong support.

So how to do that initial customer segmentation?

Unfortunately for nerds (wink to myself), you have to interact with people. Asking open questions about their problem and listening (basically interviews). A few ones I used for my Grechkomat concept:


  • Tell me how do you usually extinguish your hunger while on the go?
  • How do you choose places to grab some food at?
  • What are the things you like about them?
  • What are the things you’re missing when you’re on the go and willing to have some food?
  • What is important for you in fast food?
  • Can you name a few specific places you go to? (yay competitor research!)


  • How much time you spend to prepare a snack for yourself?
  • How much you’re making per hour (range estimates here, e.g. north of $10/hour so people would be more likely to answer)?

There are two things you most possibly would like to have here:

  • Enough of variety (randomness) in the people, so the opinions you receive will allow you to learn more
  • Enough of people interviewed
    • My fried told me that ~10 people is enough for qualitative interviews if you’re verifying a particular hypothesis (e.g. in my case gym visitors are likely to grab my snack after working out).
    • For quantitative ones you’ll need to get ~100 people to get somewhat plausible numbers

Our focus here is to confirm that people have a problem / need. Most probably you’ll discover a few of them. Or will discover the one you were solving is a thing which happens once a year or has a workaround.



Don’t focus on your product: no keywords, descriptions, nothing. Usually people are supportive of the new and risky things you do so they will compliment you and the idea.

mom book


Nerd time: talking to unknown people


Just be aware of the fact that at some point you’ll be talking to a lot of unknown people in person and that will be a lot of fun!

There are some hacks to get you started:

  • Do that on the internet (especially if you’re isolated from people e.g. by means of a service like Google Consumer Surveys with ~$300 / survey)
  • Do that to the people you already know (but be mindful of the compliments)
  • Adjust your mindset with Geeks guide to starting a conversation
  • Make people talk to you :D


Now target

After proper interviewing you inevitably will discover a few typical things people want. Different groups (segments) will want different things. Pick one and work on reaching out to those people (that’s called targeting).

In the startup world (“let’s quickly get rich!”), people often pick the most impacting:

Impact = Frequency x Density (how many people) x Cost

Similarly everything you do in your personal life has a ‘target customer’ and is essentially an offering to a problem:

  • Your blog aligns best with certain people
  • Your Facebook profile is liked by certain people more than the others
  • Your social initiatives are supported by a certain set of people more than others

Understand who are the people around you and your business. Who are the ones you would like to have more of. Now work on bridging the gap between the two. Being persistent with your presentation allow you to have more of those you want.



Meanwhile in the ideal world of customer development…

Steve Blank and all the other guys want you to understand who your customer is before building anything costly. In this world…

  • Super useful app are never created until you have your first 1000 users registered
  • Coffee machines are never installed until you’ve found out where is that place having enough of people liking your coffee
  • E-commerce shops are not created in the niches you don’t know size for
  • And you share toddler photos to your toddler lovers list and nobody else :D

This world is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed :)


What’s next

Learn from others

Observe what do you read in the marketing e-mails / messages / posts you’re observing.

  • Who the author is talking to? Is that a guy or a girl mentioned more often in the stories?
  • Does the author mention a lifestyle specific to only a group of people you know?
  • If the pains and situations outlined in the e-mail do not concern you much, which group of people could resonate with that?
  • Do you think vocabulary used there is more likely to appeal to a particular group of people?

People which tend to invest some money into refining their speeches are much easier targets to play this game on:

  • Politicians, appealing to problems of concrete groups of people (“Factories will be working again”)
  • Personal coaches, reaching out to audience able and willing to pay for their advice (“So you have a stable business which stopped growing and you’re wondering what can be done about it…”)

Learn from yourself

  • Who is the person you imagine when you write a particular post?
  • What would you like them to do / learn / understand after reading your creation?

Segment every day

  • If you’re working for hire, would you prioritize solving problems for:
    • your team members?
    • your boss?
    • your colleagues across the division?
    • a group of people using a particular technology?
    • a group of people supporting a particular methodology?
  • When you post on facebook / twitter / instagram / blog are you aiming at:
    • potential business partners to contact you?
    • previous clients which you’d like to buy another product of yours?
    • your ex-university mates to appreciate you?
  • When you’re designing a promotion campaign for your business, are you targeting:
    • people which tend to free-ride on it often?
    • people buying ’emotionally’?
    • proven customers which you can upsell to?
  • When you bake a pie, are you targeting:
    • sweet teeth people?
    • people which are very much into sports and healthy nutrition?

What is very beautiful here is that a single person can potentially belong to multiple groups. Thus you can target and nurture a particular behavior you’re interested in (changing people’s behaviors!).

Have fun!




But I blog just for my own pleasure, why would I bother thinking about segmentation?

– It’s even more important to decide on what you would like yourself to look like. You can be just anything, I know, but I bet there is a particular kind of yourself you’d like to be more of – target that and that will fill amazing!

I haven’t done any of that and I have a lot of customers, is that relevant?

– Congratulations! Just remember about segmentation and targeting when you’ll decide to grow. My numbers show that learning in advance pays off.

How can I come up with questions for my survey?

– Google for 5W’s framework. Basically who, when, where and why might need your product. What is their solution now?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *