Do you ever think about all the things you have to do well to make a sale. Whether you’re selling a product, a service, or both, it takes a lot to get a potential client or customer to hand over their credit card information or hand you some cash.
Naturally, you have to have something to sell and there needs to be a market for that thing you’re selling. You need to reach the people in that market and convince them your solution is the right one for them.
They should believe your solution solves their problem better than any of the similar solutions they can buy. You have to earn enough trust for a customer to type in their credit card info or for a client to mail you a check. It’s a lot.
I think most of us start with the product or service. We build the product and then look for customers to buy it. You define what your services will offer and then seek clients who’ll pay for those things.
The different things you need to do to make the sale will work better when they all work together. When each step informs the others. Where something you include in your service is what leads to an ability to reach clients or helps establish trust.
In addition to having something for sale, there needs to be enough people wanting to buy it. To reach these people you’re going to have to know something about them or at least make some reasonable assumptions.
The more you know about your potential customers, the more direction you have in how to design the product. It might be something as simple as a color preference in your market. Perhaps a large portion of the market likes red. It tells you to use red in your product or offer a variation of it in red. Without thinking of your customers first you might have chosen blue or green or orange.
Even if you start with the product first, you should know your potential customers as well as you can before you’re finished making it.
The earliest part part of a design should be defining the problem to be solved. Identifying your market and understanding the people in it, will help you define that problem. It’ll help you design the product so it solves that problem.
Will your market sit at the high end? The low end? Somewhere in between? Will it appeal to a niche where people are likely to have common interests?
Defining your market informs your design. If you’re going to serve the high end you know you can use better materials and put more time into getting things just right. If you’re going to serve the low end you know you need to be more cost conscious and good enough is good enough.
If you’re going to serve a niche, it’s likely filled with people sharing interests that might determine you need to add or remove a certain feature. It suggests what the aesthetics of the finished product should be.
Ideally you’ll do your best research into your potential clients and customers, but I realize for some that research is unrealistic. I think it’s ok to use your judgement or instinct at times as long as you don’t veer too far from the reasonable and as long as you end up describing a large enough group of people who’ll be interested in parting with their money in exchange for what you have for sale.
You can test early theories about your product and your market by releasing something early even if it’s rough. Get the beta out there and shape and refine through customer feedback.
Some people start even sooner, releasing not a product, but the idea of a product. They’ll test to see if people will give their email address in exchange for updates or a chance to offer the feedback that shapes future versions.
Knowing who your customers are and building things they’ll likely want into your product isn’t enough. You still need to reach your customers and let them know you have something they want for sale.
How will you reach them? Where do they spend their time? Which websites, which magazines, which tv shows have their attention? Who’s and what recommendations do they trust?
The answers to these questions can also inform your design. They suggest more about who your customers are, what they like, and what they’re willing to buy. It helps you identify who they are when they aren’t using products like yours.
How you answer these questions can impact your advertising. If you need to be in a certain place to reach your customers, You can build things into your product to help you get there.
For example say much of your market reads the same magazine or visits the same site, but the cost of advertising on either is beyond your means. Perhaps you could add something to your product that would naturally get the site or magazine to want to talk about it or write an article about it.
You know your customers and have built a product just for them. You found them and have led them to visit you and check out your service. You’re not done yet. You have to convert that visitor into a paying customer.
You have to convince them your solution is the one for them. The more you understand what would make people think your solution best, the more you can make sure your solution does those things.
Identify the real problem to be solved. The more you understand the problem, the better you can solve it. To know the problem you have to understand the people who have the problem. Everything you learn can go into product design.
How do you get people to trust you enough to give you money? Maybe some things in the product itself can help convey trust, but I think trust will come mainly from things outside the product itself.
It’s more a brand and strategy sort of thing. How your previous products were designed or how you previously delivered services will be what establishes trust. That broken product you accept in return today could lead to the sale of another product tomorrow. Your brand will help establish trust and authority long before your product is even an idea.
The main idea is that making a sale is something of a 2-way process or rather a process where each part informs each of the other parts.
You have to have a product to have a market, but knowing the people in your market will help you make the product. The more you know about the people, the better you can shape what you want them to buy. Things at the end of the process greatly impact decisions made at the beginning of the process.
Maybe you’re looking to create something new and revolutionary and feedback won’t help. Your customers will just tell you they want faster horses instead of being able to envision driving in cars. It’s a bigger risk, but I think you can guestimate some of who your market is. You can use your judgement with the understanding you might be making incorrect assumptions.
You can consider yourself the customer and design for yourself in order to identify the who, what, where, etc. about your customers. You do this by really being a customer and using your product and trusting there are enough people like you to make up a market willing to buy.
Ultimately it’s about making good decisions, the best you can make. What do you include as a service? What materials will you use to build the product? You make better design decisions when you have the proper information to make them. Some of that information is in the market. Take a customer first approach to products and services.
We often forget the customer until after we’ve made the product. It’s easier for us not to have to consider it, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to a product that does enough to make a sale.
Gather information before the product is finished. Start with some idea of both product and market and how to make the one the other wants. Keep adjusting and iterating your ideas about both until your product is complete or your services defined. Keep gathering information to understand your market and let what you learn inform the product decision you make.
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