The scene: Glass-windowed conference room at open-air tech office in SF, dog under the table, “micro-kitchen” snacks scattered around, and product manager adorned in company hoodie just finished her killer presentation on the next new game changing product. After the office applause settles, one brave soul dares to ask: “So, who is this for?” The product manager responds, “Well, that’s easy – it’s for everyone!”

While the CFO high fives the product manager, the marketer at the table is silently screaming…

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

“It’s for everyone” might be the worst three words in the marketer’s dictionary. In this post I’ll explain why – and how to fix it.

If your product is “for everyone” – it’s actually for no one

Remember that old middle school inspiration poster – visualize it with me, it probably had a cat about to fall off of a tree or something – “If you stand for nothing, you fall for everything” ? The same holds true for products going to market. If you don’t have a true customer in mind, how are you going to be able to reach them? “For everyone” literally means people (or dogs too? I mean you did say everyone….) in all countries, of all ages, with all technical abilities… well, you get the idea. The best is when I hear this in regards to a B2B context and they STILL say it’s for everyone (my first question: “….don’t they have to own a business??”).

It signals you have not done the due diligence

If you say your product is “for everyone” – you’re telling me that you don’t really know anything about your customer. At all. You haven’t taken the time to speak to any customer or prospect, to research how they would use your product, why they would love it, how you would tell them about new features…. instead they are just an amorphous blob who should automatically fall in love with your product. It’s sloppy.

Messaging and targeting is a nightmare

Now your marketer will have nowhere to start. They have a budget set aside for this project but they don’t know where to spend it – or what kind of message to convey – or even what success will look like. Why would you do this to them, why?!

I hope you believe me now. Here are some ways to help define who your customers are:

  1. Talk to people already using the product. Yes, real people. You can do this by setting up an interview, hosting a user study over webex, or sending out a survey.
  2. Ask them some basic questions – and record these. What is their role at their company? Which age range are they in? Where do they live? Depending on your industry or your product, this can change.
  3. Develop a hypothesis of who would use your product. If you do not have any customers yet using the product, develop a hypothesis using some of the questions above. Try to be as specific as possible.
  4. Look at competitors to your product – who are they marketing to? Is this the same or different for your product? Why?
  5. If you still have no idea – ask yourself if this product is really worth your time.

If you have more than one type of customer, that’s ok. Different groups of customers are known as “personas” – more to come on that in a future blog post.

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