Along with consulting, I spend a lot of time teaching new entrepreneurs how to determine, deliver, and demonstrate their value.
One of my roles is as a mentor for scientists (typically graduate students) who are looking to commercialize the innovation they’ve created in the lab.
Which means I get to hear a lot of questions about the first stages of starting a business. And the most common one is simply:
“Who are my customers?”
So here’s what I tell them:
First, your best, earliest customers are going to be the people who already want what you have created.
Don’t waste time, energy, or money trying to convince people of anything.
Second, you’ll find those people by finding the folks who are already buying a similar or adjacent solution.
Find the people who are making do with an inferior solution. Even if what you sell is new, the problem you solve isn’t.
Third, demonstrate your ability to overdeliver in the areas they care about most.
Identify the tradeoffs these customers are making, and how you can make them even clearer and more focused.
That’s how you find your customers. By finding the people who are already buying the next best thing to your product.
And demonstrating that your solution is the right one for them.