16 questions to ask your target audience before starting a business

We know the feeling. You’ve just had the best business idea ever, there’s absolutely no time to spare and you’re rushing like crazy to get everything set up and watch the customers come flooding in. Stop. Relax. Calm down. Don’t make the mistake of diving head first into entrepreneurship and sinking your savings into a business without taking time to be absolutely certain there’s a market for it. So how do you know for sure you’re solving a problem hat people want to pay for? We spoke to Virgin StartUp mentor and founder of Elan Media, Ola Agbaimoni. She’s also an expert in the Business HUG marketing strategy that has been championed by many successful businesses. Here’s exactly what she does before she starts a new business.

You hear it all the time - you've got to do your research before you launch your business. How else are you going to know the size of your market; the demographic and psychographic profile of your ideal customers and of course the make up of your competition? But if you ask the majority of people in business what market research they actually did, more often than not the answer is very little or none. To be honest, most people base the demand for the product or service they are about to launch on anecdotal evidence from either their friends and family or what they think, based on their own personal experience.

Then there are those at the opposite end of the spectrum who spend so much time researching their business idea that they never actually either start their business or decide that it is a no goer.

Speaking of which, if there is one thing that market research is invaluable for, it’s telling you is that your so-called million pound idea is a non-starter.

As with anything, striking a happy medium is the key. Whilst you don't have to spend a fortune hiring market research companies, it is a good idea to get a thorough understanding of your market and your potential customers before you sink your life savings into your new business venture. This will help you identify gaps and frame your proposition in a way that presses the hot buttons of your ideal customers. That is it. Speak directly to their PAIN (problems aspirations issues or needs) and make them know, not only are you a solution to their problem, you are the only solution to their problem!

When I set up my own company I spent a lot of time researching my competitors. Not just the obvious ones but also products and services which my potential customers my use to substitute my services. As a service provider it was important to know how I was going to stand out from the crowd. I reviewed their websites, marketing material, service and special offers.

I also surveyed my target market so that I would be crystal clear on their demographic and psychographic make up. What kept them awake worrying at night, what were their biggest challenges? I used the following list of questions to create a customer persona (think if this as a detailed description of a single individual) for my ideal client:

1. How old are they?
2. Where do they live?
3. How much do they earn?
4. Outline as many demographic features of your ideal client as you can….
5. If you had a magic wand and could give them anything that they want… what do they most desire?
6. With regard to your topic, what do they want?
7. What do they need?
8. What are they afraid of?
9. What frustrates them?
10. What do they lose sleep over at night?
11. What will be their biggest objections to doing business with you?
12. Where do these people gather in groups?
13. What do they do for fun?
14. Who has these clients before you?
15. What do they read?
16. What other media do they digest?

One final point. Market research for your business is not a one time only thing. If you are going to stay current and relevant to your market you need to be regularly updating your market intelligence.

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