How to Find Customers to Talk to About Your Product: Full Sources List
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Breaking news! In most cases what you think your users want and what your users really want are not exactly the same thing. That’s why turning an idea (or product) into a successful business requires finding people who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. But how to find customers to talk to when you’re just at the early stage of your product development?
As a UI/UX design agency, we often need to validate our works with real users as a part of our design process. And while some of the products we work on already have an existing customer base, there are situations when we need to make more effort and find potential users for testing our designs. So, based on our experience, in this article, I'll provide you with a comprehensive list of tactics and resources that you can use to engage with your potential customers.
Just two more things you need to know before we proceed with the list:
- Make sure you have a clearly defined buyer persona/s before you start looking for customers. By understanding your target audience's profile and preferred hangouts, you can strategically choose appropriate platforms to connect with them.
- When searching for potential users, look for quality, not quantity. You need people who not only have a problem you’re going to solve with your product, but are also actively seeking a solution.
Now it’s time to move to the list.
1. Your network
Probably the easiest way to start looking for interviewees is to talk to people you know. Try to think if there’s someone who matches your buyer persona within your current network: friends, family, teachers from your college, alumni, colleagues, and so on.
Remember that while using your own network can be advantageous, you shouldn’t be overly pushy or intrusive. Your task is not to sell the product but to validate the idea. And make sure people that you interview won’t say that your ideas are great just because they like you.
Finally, when interviewing people you know, ask them to introduce you to someone from their network who may be interested in your product.
Using Facebook to find potential customers is to some extent similar to interacting with your network: you can also start by contacting your friends, acquaintances from college, and so on. Still, Facebook gives some additional opportunities for finding those interested in your product.
- Join relevant groups. There are plenty of them on Facebook on a variety of topics. If you know your target audience well, you can find the one fitting your needs. For example, the SaaS Growth Hacks is a great community for SaaS entrepreneurs. Engage in discussions, answer questions, and build relationships with group members. Also, don’t forget to contact group creators. They can be among your target audience themselves, or know people that might be interested in talking to you.
- Collaborate with influencers. Partner with influencers in your industry to promote your product. Their endorsement can introduce your product to a broader audience.
- Use Facebook ads. It’s quite an easy and effective way to get leads and validate your product. Using Facebook's targeted advertising options to reach potential customers based on demographics, interests, and behaviors will allow you to showcase your product to a relevant audience.
- Create a business page. Whether your product is already in the market or about to launch, set up a professional and engaging Facebook Business Page for your product. Share informative posts, updates, and customer testimonials (if any) to attract potential customers. You can also combine this approach with the earlier suggestion and run an ad to promote your business page.
Facebook business page actually helped our designer find users for interviews when he was seeking efficient ways to revamp a client experience platform called Gridle. Consequently, he transformed insights from these interviews into practical and impactful design decisions and managed to make the app even more helpful and simple to use.
This social network was created for building a professional network, so it actually can suit you perfectly. LinkedIn provides various opportunities to look for people willing to talk with you.
- Join relevant groups. Identify and join LinkedIn groups that are related to your product's industry or target audience. Engage in discussions, offer valuable insights, and connect with group members who might be interested in your product.
- Engage in conversations. Actively engage with your network and potential customers by commenting on their posts and sharing your thoughts. This interaction helps build relationships and opens the door for further conversations.
- Use the advanced search function. LinkedIn offers an advanced search feature to identify potential customers based on specific criteria such as job title, industry, location, or company size. This allows you to target your outreach more effectively.
For example, here’s a message I as a content writer received from a product manager of an AI startup. He probably found me based on my job title through a LinkedIn search.
- Try out LinkedIn Sales Navigator. If the budget allows, consider using LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It provides additional search filters, lead recommendations, and improved prospecting capabilities.
- Ask for referrals. Request referrals from your existing connections. They might know someone who could benefit from your product and be willing to introduce you.
As a question-and-answer platform, Quora is a great place for finding people to help solve your problems. There are discussions on probably every subject you can think of (including the topic we’re discussing now).
Here are several tactics to use this platform effectively:
- Identify relevant topics. Search for topics related to your product's niche or industry. Follow these topics to receive notifications about new questions and discussions.
- Engage with other answers. Comment on other users' answers to initiate conversations, and mention your product if relevant.
- Use the "Credentials and Highlights" section. Highlight your expertise and relevant experiences in your Quora profile. This can make potential customers more inclined to engage with you.
- Follow active users. Identify users who consistently ask or answer questions related to your product's niche. Following them can help you stay updated and engage with their content. You can also contact them on other platforms, like LinkedIn, for example, to continue the conversation.
- Offer detailed case studies. Share real-world examples or case studies of how your product has helped solve specific problems. This can attract users seeking similar solutions.
Similarly to Quora, Reddit has a diverse community, so there definitely must be discussions where people talk about your industry or the problem you’re trying to solve. Still, using Reddit to find potential interviewees requires a strategic approach due to the community-driven nature of the platform.
- Identify relevant subreddits (topic-dedicated forums). These communities provide a platform to engage with potential customers who are already interested in your field. So, offering helpful advice related to your product’s niche can lead to interesting connections.
- Avoid over-promotion. While it's acceptable to mention your product when relevant, avoid overtly promoting it. Focus on providing value and contributing to discussions rather than constantly pushing your product.
- Ask for feedback. If the subreddit rules allow, you can ask for feedback on your product or specific features.
- Use the "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) format if you have a unique perspective or expertise related to your product.
- Share success stories or case studies related to your product, focusing on how it solved specific problems. This can spark conversations with users facing similar issues.
- Offer free resources. Share relevant resources, such as guides, ebooks, or templates, for free. This not only establishes your authority but also attracts potential customers interested in learning more.
If used correctly, YouTube can be not only an entertaining platform for your lunchtime but also a strategic tool for finding useful connections. Here are several tactics to consider:
- Reach out to YouTube channel owners. Find experts in your industry and assess their subscriber reach. Much like consulting with bloggers as industry experts, conducting interviews with channel owners can bring valuable insights. You can also ask them to promote your product or participate in discussions about it.
- Create your own informative videos. Produce videos that address common problems or questions within your product's niche. This establishes you as an expert and attracts viewers seeking solutions. However, this method takes time, so consider running YouTube ads targeted to your specific audience.
- Video responses. Create video responses to popular videos or discussions within your product's niche. This can introduce your perspective and attract viewers interested in similar topics.
Meetup.com is a platform designed to help people find and build communities (in their local area or online) based on their shared interests, hobbies, or professional pursuits.
Here’s how you can use it:
- Join relevant meetup groups. Search for Meetup groups related to your industry, product, or interests. Join these groups to access a community of potential customers. Attend Meetup events with the goal of networking and building relationships.
- Leverage Meetup messaging. Use Meetup's messaging system to reach out to event organizers and attendees. Initiate conversations with potential customers who share your interests.
- Collect contact information. When appropriate, collect contact information (for example, email addresses or LinkedIn profiles) from individuals you meet at Meetup events for further discussions.
- Collaborate with organizers. Build relationships with Meetup group organizers who may have insights into potential customers or partnerships. Ask them if you can address the audience at a Meetup.
Remember that Meetup.com is a platform for building relationships, so focus on providing value, engaging authentically, and genuinely getting to know potential customers rather than aggressively pitching your product.
8. Email campaigns
Using email to find and engage with potential customers requires strategic outreach and relationship-building. Here are several tactics, each with a brief description, to help you leverage email effectively:
- Email outreach campaigns. Create targeted email outreach campaigns where you reach out to prospects who fit your ideal customer profile. Create personalized messages highlighting the value of your product or service. To build an email list you may use Clearbit or LinkedIn Sales Navigator, a premium LinkedIn tool that provides advanced search and lead generation capabilities.
- Cold emailing. Send introductory emails to individuals or businesses that might benefit from your offering. Focus on addressing their pain points and how your product can help. You may use Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor to automate this process.
Remember to comply with email marketing regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM Act, and obtain consent when sending marketing emails.
While people are overwhelmed with ads, blogs continue to evoke sentiments of trust and authenticity, making them a great place to narrate your product's story.
Here are several tactics for using a blog to connect with your target audience:
- Create content about the problem you’re solving. Develop informative, engaging, and relevant blog posts that address the pain points, questions, and interests of your target customers. Optimize posts for search engines to increase visibility.
- Guest posting. Contribute guest posts to popular blogs within your industry or niche. This allows you to tap into existing audiences and establish your authority.
- Share blog posts. Occasionally share your blog posts when they directly answer questions or provide solutions on relevant online forums. Ensure relevance and value.
- Network with influencers. Identify influential members within the forums and engage with them. Use content research and social listening tools like BuzzSumo to discover popular and trending content on various topics and identify influential individuals or websites in your industry.
10. Complimentary startups
Partnering with complimentary startups can be an effective way to find potential customers and engage in mutually beneficial conversations.
- Identify complementary startups. Look for startups that offer products or services that complement or relate to your own. They often share a similar target audience.
- Ask for collaboration. Join marketing campaigns, webinars, or events, collaborate on customer surveys or research projects, or develop co-branded resources such as ebooks, whitepapers, templates that address common customer pain points.
- Contact users of a complementary company directly. If you believe your product would benefit the company's audience, seek out individuals who are actively participating in discussions and engaging with the company on the various platforms.
By strategically partnering with complementary startups, you can tap into their existing customer base and engage in meaningful conversations with potential customers who are more likely to have an interest in your products or services. Building collaborative relationships with these startups can be a win-win for both parties.
Similarly as you conduct a competitive analysis to identify your product’s strengths and weaknesses, you can use your rivals to find people to talk to. And here’s how:
- Monitor competitor social media. Follow your competitors on social media platforms. Pay attention to their followers, engage with their posts, and identify potential customers among their audience.
- Analyze competitor reviews. Read customer reviews and testimonials on your competitors' websites or review platforms. Look for patterns in what customers like or dislike about their products.
- Content comparisons. Create content that compares your product to competitors in an objective and informative way. This can attract users actively researching alternatives.
Chances of finding customers to talk to are much higher when you can not only articulate your product idea verbally but also demonstrate it through a quick MVP (Minimum Viable Product). There are plenty of people who will eagerly sign up for early trials, won’t miss the opportunity to discover and share new products, and will be willing to provide feedback on products that are still in development.
When our client Haven Diagnostics came to us, they were about to build a medical analytics platform and needed to understand their users well before developing the product. We offered them more than just design ideas. We worked together to do all the initial research that startups need before launching. This included defining product-market fit, understanding users' pain points, and brainstorming solutions.
As a result, in just two months, we designed a minimalistic MVP with only the most important features for Haven to test with potential users.
So, if you already have MVP in your hands, here are several tactics for finding interviewees with its help:
- Landing page teasers. Create a landing page, showcasing your product’s core benefits and features, and offer early access to collect email addresses from interested visitors to build a list of potential interviewees. Airbnb, Buffer, and Dropbox are just a few of the well-known companies that embarked on their market journey with a landing page MVP. For more practical advice, I recommend reading about Sam Dickie's experience in creating a landing page to test his MVP.
- Social media teasers. Share sneak peeks and teasers of your MVP on social media platforms. Encourage users to sign up or express interest in being early adopters.
- Crowdfunding campaigns. Launch a crowdfunding campaign on platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to introduce your MVP to a wider audience. Backers often become early customers.
- Product Hunt. Launch your MVP on platforms like Product Hunt, where early adopters and tech enthusiasts discover new products.
- Beta Directories and services. Launch your MVP on platforms like Product Hunt or BetaList, where early adopters and tech enthusiasts discover new products.
- BetaTesting or FindEarlyAdopters. These platforms focus on connecting you with individuals who are willing to try out new products and provide feedback. They work well for those who already have an MVP and need user feedback on it. However, keep in mind that by using these websites you risk having testers who don’t face a problem you’re trying to solve.
- UserTesting.com. The primary goal of this platform is usability testing, not direct customer acquisition or in-depth interviews. However, during the testing process, participants often provide additional information about their preferences, pain points, and needs. This data can be valuable in understanding your potential customers better and refining your value proposition
- AskYourTargetMarket.com. It’s a market research platform that allows businesses and individuals to conduct online surveys and gather insights from a broad range of respondents. It can help you find potential customers to engage with, especially when combined with qualitative research methods like in-depth interviews and surveys with open-ended questions.
13. Talk to people in the real world
Finally, while the digital landscape offers a plethora of opportunities to find potential users, never underestimate the power of face-to-face interactions.
- Attend networking events. Attend industry-specific conferences, seminars, trade shows, and meetups (check Business Network International, for example). These events are excellent opportunities to meet potential customers who share your interests.
- Visit business centres or co-working spaces. Such places provide opportunities to interact with a diverse group of people, often business owners or niche professionals.
That was the last point on the list. Now, armed with these insights, you're ready to explore various tactics to connect with your potential customers. Based on Eleken’s experience, I can say that you won’t need to speak with dozens of people to validate your idea. Usually, 10-15 people are enough to start noticing patterns in their answers. Still, whether you choose to design an MVP or utilize social media's power, once you find the needed people, learning how to talk to your potential users will be your next crucial step.
And I wish you the best of luck!