As we begin thinking about starting a business, we tend to form opinions about who the customers will be, how much they’ll pay for our goods, and what they like or dislike. But opinions are not necessarily the most solid foundation on which to gamble grandma’s nest egg.
At some point early in the business start-up process you’ll need to venture forth and speak to potential customers. This is the part of the journey where you learn more about who they are, what they need or want and whether or not they will buy from you, once your business is up and running.
Once you have a rough idea of who you’re targeting, it’s time to clarify what you want to learn about them. What would you like to ask or confirm when speaking directly to potential customers? The following questions should help you get started. Feel free to delete any that don’t apply to your business or to add a few of your own.
- Who are your customers? How old?
- Male or female? Educational background?
- Where do they live? Where do they work?
- Do they need or already purchase the goods or services you intend to sell?
- How much money do they intend to spend on the products or services?
- Where do they currently buy the products or services?
- What do they like or dislike about the products or services they currently purchase?
- Do they think their need for these products and services will be increasing or decreasing in the future?
- Will they buy these goods in the next year? How often?
- Would they buy this product or service from your business? When?
When surveying potential customers, it’s important to ask only for the information you need and to respect the privacy of all who participate. You might want to test your draft survey on a couple of close friends before taking it to the streets. It’s also important to keep the survey as brief as possible, and to thank those who agree to take part.
If you begin with these basic questions and listen closely to the answers you get, those you’re surveying will guide you to learn much about your business. Their answers will also help you revise some of your questions and even add new ones. It’s perfectly ok to adjust your survey on the fly, adapting to new information as you speak with different people in your market area.
Some entrepreneurs are put off by the task of surveying potential customers. Rather than fearing or delaying market research, view it as an opportunity to learn about the most important component of your future business, your customer.