What makes an audience a great audience for micropreneur saas? Who is our ideal target customer?

Hi All,

Amy Hoy’s talk at Microconf 2012 inspired me to ask this quesion (which i already did in the closed Microconf Europe 2014 forum ).
I’ve already had great feedback from our friends at Microconf but thought this might be a good place to continue the discussion.

In her talks Amy states that you should start your business with customers you love working for in mind, not so much your product idea.

The advantage of this is approach is that if you discover a problem that they need to have solved, and you can solve it, you already know who your customers will be PLUS you enjoy working with them (not all customers are pleasantly worked with).

So, let’s start with the assumption that we would like to be in a B2B SaaS business. Next question could be: Who is our ideal customer? What attributes define them?

Jaana Kulmala also put together a great checklist to start with.

I’ve taken some of the points mentioned in Jaana’s list and added some of my own thoughts.
Also, for this discussion i thought it would be wise to discriminate between ‘attributes of the founder’ and ‘attributes of the customer’.

Please see the list below.

What would you add to the list?

Then using the list,
What type of business professionals are most likely to have the attributes described under ‘Target Customer Attributes’ (see below)?
A C-level corporate enterprise manager? Someone with operational roles in larger corporations? A SMB manager? A founder of a VSB? The owner of an agency? A freelancer/consultant? Other?

thanks again,

Founder Attributes related to the target customer:
-You have some knowledge of your potential customers: what are their needs, how do they see their world, how do they buy stuff?
-You have some acknowledged authority and trust in the market of your target customers
-You love working with you target cutomers: they’ll survive the Shopping Centre Test

Target Customer Attributes:

Your target customer
-is a business (B2B) rather then consumer (B2C)
-does have money to spend: ideally they already spend similar amounts of money (or more!) on similar services like yours. Even better: they already have monthly subscriptions they pay for.
-buys products to solve problems (not folks with DIY mentalities)
-is not a cheapskate (they always complain and leave to early)
-do not frequently switch products (NB: in fast changing markets people are stimulated to explore different solutions)
-owns the budget and feels the pain you are relieving (single decision maker)
-is in a single market (multiple markets requires multiple marketing efforts)

1 Like

Hi Nils,

It was nice to meet you at MCE!

I think the more attributes common with the founder and the audience, the easier time you’ll have. Understanding your users is one of the toughest challenges in starting a business, so take all the advantages you have, and try to lift stuff from your past - leverage the experience you already have.

I don’t think it’s beneficial to try to find your “ideal customer” before you have a product - that’s going too deep. You can imagine a perfect customer, but in reality it’s really hard to foresee who those people will be in action. In worst case you’ll make up a person who doesn’t exist in quantities large enough to base a business on.

Like, do define the audience/niche before starting, but lift the pains and features of that audience from real world data.

What has worked nicely for me was to quickly launch something (smaller non-SaaS product) for the audience I wanted to work with. That’ll start the discussion and you’ll get to learn from real-life customers.

Hi @kulmala,

it was nice meeting you too at MCE, thanks for the chat and feedback here.

I’m not sure i agree with you on ‘the search for the ideal customer’ being to deep. I think since it is such a fundamental part of your biz, and a foundational part, it is worth spending a proportional amount of time researching.
Also i think that through research we should be able to find data that we can use to filter audiences according to the criteria listed. My guess is most of the data is available in the world (forums, blogs. tweets, interviews).

I haven’t thought about the overlap in attributes of the founder and customer before. It’s an intersting thought.
On the one side it seems fair to assume that more overlap implies better understanding of target audience, on the other side, it might also imply you suffer from the same problem-solution-hiding-perspective?
Wouldn’t it be better to look at audiences from an outsiders perspective?

Here’s how I see it.

I think “ideal customer” as a term belong to customer success terminology - a person who haven’t bought/subscribed yet isn’t a customer. It’s an important mental distinction to me and you need to find out who your app attracts (e.g. using cohort retention) before doing that kind of study. I think it’s extremely hard to do it other way around.

Before you have a business, what you really can study is the audience/market. And their pains/problems. And it’s useful to create an image of a “stereotypical prospect personality” - but unless you are actually working with an actual pilot customer, I think the safer approach is to just pick a pain and solve it in a way that uses your special expertise. I.e. always leverage what you already have/know.

Your app will always reflect how you see the world - so you can build an app with an ideal customer in mind, but unless your can get his worldview just right, you can’t assure that your app will appeal/attract him. So ideally the audience would be people like you, but possibly at the earlier stage of the learning curve on your expertise area.

The worldviews and understanding how you differ from a good prospect can help you to prevent from making mistakes like targeting people who always look for the cheapest solution. But there’s a limit of what you can learn from data - or, there was for me - the data didn’t help me understand my audience enough that I could have straight away built an app that would have perfectly appealed to people I wanted to target. Frankly, the first version of FirstOfficer.io would not have sold well. But it was enough to get in people who matched the profile of a great prospect and were willing to pilot and experiment with me - and with the help of those 3 awesome persons I pretty much re-designed the whole thing during the 4 months before the official launch.

The ‘problem-solution-hiding’ is a real risk too. That’s how I have competitive edge with FirstOfficer.io, because of my experience - most of my competitors are ‘scratching their own itch’ and they look at the problem area from a whole different perspective. Their apps provide metrics - my app helps in finding insights. The challenge is to get the marketing message right and clearly communicate that.

And if I’d have to go back, the only thing that I would have changed is to start working with live pilot customers sooner. Which is why I’m trying to push you from studying too deep to actually experimenting with things IRL. Nothing prevents you getting back to study-mode later. Big part of doing business is being able to move forward with incomplete knowledge and adjust as you learn more.

Great conversation guys! Here’s how I look at it:

  1. Look for an audience, and pains you can solve. In order to “punch above your weight” your audience should be of people like you but earlier on the learning curve, or people who could hire you, or people who would like to be like you (what we learnt in 30x500 class). Also what @kulmala said about leveraging what you already know.
  2. Determine specific attributes of your ideal customer (using @kulmala checklist) but be flexible on some of these attributes - you can’t derive everything based from data, so there will be assumptions in there.
  3. Ask people matching part of your ideal customer profile to be pilot customers. That’s where in my opinion you have to be a bit flexible in your ideal customer definition, if not all criteria are filled, it’s still better to work with an approximation of an ideal customer than an imaginary person. BUT do not accept them as pilot customers if they deviate too much from your ideal customer profile (or else you need to revisit some of your assumptions)
  4. Develop the product with your pilot customers
  5. Profit! :smile: