Customer Understanding

with Steve Blank

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Customer Archetype

Who are your customers? Why do they buy?

Steve Blank

8x Entrepreneur, Author, Customer Development Expert

Lessons Learned

You need to understand what matters, motivates, and influences your customer.

You really want to know your customer in context.

The person who uses the product may not be the same person who purchases the product.

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Lesson: Customer Understanding with Steve Blank

Step #3 Customer Archetype: Who are your customers? Why do they buy?

And the goal of all this is to actually define the customer persona or archetype which is just a fancy way for saying, "I want you to know everything about those customers." So what could be everything? At the end of the day, not only do you know about the pains and gains of these customers but you specifically know who they are. If they are in a company, their position and title, their age, their sex, their role, and consumers can be parents, it could be a child. For a consumer it could be housemaid, etcetera. How do they buy? Where do they buy? How much money do they have? Discretionary to spend and again it's true in companies and it is true for consumers. And companies, do you know how much each individual department can sign out for? That is if you price your product a dollar too high, sometimes it requires the next level of management to sign off.

Same at home, if you're trying to sell to kids, do you know what their allowances are and how much or where they get their money, and how often they get it? And if you're selling to consumers who are parents, what's their weekly spend on discretionary items? You need to understand what matters to them, what motivates them, who influences them, and this one isn't trivium. What influences them, you're going back to this when you do customer relationships later, and it would be great if you actually knew how to reach these people and what buttons to push when you do? And so if you start asking these questions when you're starting to talk to them, trying to define them, it makes spending for marketing and demand creation that is for customer acquisition and activation incredibly easy because you already ask them upfront, "How would I get you to buy this?"

So marketing doesn't become some mysterious process later on. Customers already told you. "Oh, this is how I buy and this is how much I spend, and here's who I listen to when I want to make a purchase." As I said earlier, to me the goal is actually for you to know enough to confidently go up to a whiteboard and draw the day in the life of a customer.

Here's some other things to consider in a customer segment besides jobs to be done and pain and gain, and that is who's the customer? Well, gee, I thought we just defined the customer? It's the archetype, it's the persona. But sometimes who's the personal in context is really what we need to know. In corporations it's pretty easy to understand that you might have someone who uses the product but they might not be the person who pays for the product. So there might be someone up here, the payer, let's give them a fancy name and call them the economic buyer. So we might be buying software for accounting to use but it might be the chief financial officer who has to sign off for them.

Then in between this process, in a large company, you might have people who influence the decisions, you might have people who actually recommend who the vendors should be, you might have a decision maker who is the head of the department but still needs to pass off the final purchase to the chief financial officer. And, surprisingly, if you spend enough time selling to companies, you might have saboteurs and saboteurs in a company are individuals or organizations whose jobs feel threatened if a new piece of software or new process or new organization comes in place.

So in complicated business to business sales, you really need to know the archetypes for each one of these even though you might think, "Oh, all I need to know is about my user." And then you might go, "Okay, well then all we need to know is about the buyer." As what we'll see later you actually need to understand archetypes for all. Now if you were kind of rolling your eyes going, "Well, I don't sell the businesses, I just sell to consumers. This isn't relevant to me." I want you to think of the case of selling entertainment software to teens. Well, think about it. You kind of say, "Well, the user, that's pretty simple. That's the teen, how hard can that be?" Well, if they don't have a job, the economic buyer is their parents and the influencers and recommenders may be their friends. And the decision maker depending on your family might be mom or dad or the kid or somebody else in between. And so when you think about business to consumer sales you also need to start thinking about, is the user different than the payer?

The last example is a personal one. I was buying a car and I thought how simple could that be? I was the customer. What don't I know? Having two teenage daughters that really wasn't the case. Because when I started talking about my car or a potential car, my daughter said, "Dad, you can't buy that type of car. We wouldn't be caught dead in it." I looked at her and said, "Well, the car is not for you." She said, "Oh, we just won't even be riding in it." And then they said, "Well, listen, if you buy that car you can't get that color." And this conversation went on for a long time until finally we are able to make a decision and I realized that the final decision maker in our household was my wife.

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