Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Similarity Problem

At our Sandbox Accelerator class about value propositions and market segmentation, led by Sidd Goyal (CTO of Tinyurl), the issue of "knowing your customer" came up.  

A guy who runs at Personal Training start-up in Lawrence piped up when the subject came around to adjusting to customers you didn't expect.

When he started training, he expected to be working with guys.  He imagined himself helping them boost their stats in the compound exercises (i.e. the stuff guys brag about to each other, like bench, squats, deadlift).  

But what did he find?

Most of his actual customers are older than he would've imagined them to be, and his client base is predominantly female.  

What was his takeaway?

Besides the obvious (hey, adapt to who your customer is if you want to stay in business), he dipped into the psychological aspect of it a bit.  The guys he imagined working with didn't necessarily feel like they wanted/needed another guy to help them with that stuff...esp. one who wasn't carrying around the frame and physique of a WWF WWE wrestler.  

For service-based businesses, where the *personality* factor matters way more than it does for people selling, say, iPhone cases, this is an underrated/underappreciated point.  

My business is trying to do for online identity/security what DARE and MADD do for drug abuse and drunk driving.  The analogy is imperfect, but I think that helps to frame the Big Idea.  

Who do you think is the LEAST receptive to it?  Anyone with even a whiff of tech in their background.  It's worse if they're male, and fuhgeddaboudit if they're under 50.  

Who are the biggest champions?  30+ clients into the game, they all trace back to a single individual in Chelmsford.  Who is she?  Just a really nice lady who I got to know, first over the phone, then in person.  And whose patrons, or *customers* appreciated the service, and told her.  She matters to a lot of people in her network, and she's got no reason to be threatened by the earnest veteran entrepreneur from up the road. The other big *Key Influencer* is someone in Danvers, but she traces back to the first one, too.  After that, it's a guy in Salem who couldn't care less about how many APIs he can integrate with, or whether the slow speed of TOR makes it an undesirable choice for surfing w/o a traceable IP.  

So, THOSE are the people who are keeping me busy.  

When a high school principal on the phone tells me, "Greg, this sounds great, but I'm going to have to refer this to our technical guy.  Why don't you e-mail me and I'll kick it over to him?", I know exactly what it means.  That technical guy wants me coming in w/this program about as much as he wants someone to open a jar of Ebola on his desk, right in front of the fan. 

Sometimes similarity breeds affinity.  Other times, it's a recipe for a cold shoulder.  

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