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No longer relegated to the marketing and communications team, understanding the behaviours, thoughts, and feelings of your target market is more important than ever for small business owners. This knowledge that you have about your customer should inform every business decision you make, no matter where you are in your company’s life cycle.

With so many startup success stories circling social media, it’s easy for business owners to get caught up in new and marketable technology without thinking about the user and their needs. Your product may be a marvel of modern innovation, but does it solve a problem for your customers? Who is going to use it, and why? What matters most to the people you’re going to target? Even the most talented marketing team can’t drive sales for a product doesn’t fit with customer needs.

Whether you’re embarking on a new business idea or looking to revitalize your sales, try out these tips for connecting with your customer:

1. Create Value
Tools like the ‘Value Proposition Canvas’ force you to look at the details of what you offer vs. what your customers want. Good product-market fit will emerge when you think through the different customer pains and gains, as well as the details of your offering and what jobs it does. You don’t have to spend hours filling this out, but thinking about different aspects of your customers' needs and your own product will draw out some bigger questions about your business’ direction.

2. Be a Data Scientist
Use all of the available data that you can find to figure out the size of your target market and your customer base. If you think your event planning business will be a hit with millennials, find out how many there are in your country, city, or town. Use census data to gauge their average income and level of education. Look at the number of related businesses registered in your city. Tools like PRIZM5 will tell you more about your customer in a certain area – just plug in the area’s postal code and you can see which section of the market they fit in.

3. Talk to your Customer
Dig deeper into your customer’s psyche by doing some research - come up with hypotheses about your business model and test them out by talking to your customer. You can use interviews, surveys, results from your analytics page, or anything else you can come up with – as long as you’re directly connecting with your customer. Prove out all of the pains, gains, and jobs you’ve found on your value canvas with all the resources you can find. Think your dating app will resonate with older women? Think about who you know in that demographic and reach out to them by interview or survey. What are they unhappy with about other dating apps? Do they even use other dating apps, or apps in general? The answer might be no – maybe your app is better suited to a millennial clientele.

If you try these strategies, be open minded about your results - you might have to go back to the drawing board if your idea doesn’t pan out, but at least you haven’t spent hundreds of marketing dollars. Hopefully these tips have made you think a little bit more about product-market fit and why it’s important for your business.

Posted by Kristen Campbell

Kristen is in the final year of her second undergraduate degree in accounting. She has worked in audit, as well as taxes, and plans to pursue her CPA, but her real passion is writing. For the last 8 years, she's been working as a freelance ghostwriter to fund her studies, exposing her to a wide variety of subject matter. In her spare time, she uses this exposure to fuel her passion for pub trivia.

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