Building a strong brand is a critical step in the process of building a strong business. Every niche is different, and every brand has to find the best way to make a name for themselves in their niche. Now I’m definitely not an expert in brand development, but I am learning more every day. This week I will be a part of Lean Startup Machine in New York City which places a strong focus on understanding your customer. Just reading through the materials got me thinking a lot about how critical understanding your customer is to building your brand.
This is a lesson that I’ve been learning with a number of my core brands. A great example is Kayaking.org my online Kayaking resource that is really gaining steam. It wasn’t until I began partnering with Kayakers that I really learned who my customer is and what they are really looking for. To find the right people to partner with I went on Twitter and began actively monitoring who was tweeting the most in the Kayaking space. After a few weeks it was very clear who the key players were.
One of the things I learned is that kayakers really love to share their experiences, photos, and videos with the community. This prompted me to add a blog to my site and hiring a die-hard kayaker, a guy who kayaks every single day when weather permits. He is helping to build a community but through talking with him I’m also learning a lot more about the community. When I started the site my focus was the directory, well the directory has taken-off and now sends tons of great traffic to the businesses we list, however now that I’ve been putting more energy into understanding my customer I can see that the blog, a classified ads section, and most importantly kayaking trip reports will be critical in taking the brand to the next level.
This brings me back to the title of this post – why understanding your customer is critical to building your brand. Whether your brand is in the adventure sports space, financial space, or the beverage industry understanding your customer is so important. This is a major advantage to building brands in niches that you yourself are passionate about since you know the customer very well – it’s you!
However it’s important to remember that you aren’t your only customer and even if you are passionate about something you still want to understand more people than just you. So what are some of the best ways to get to know your customers?
- Conferences – I think conferences are probably #1 in my book. If people are willing to pay money to attend an event about a particular topic you can bet they are passionate about it and probably part of the community. I am passionate about Domaining, Startups, and wine which is why I attend conferences about these three topics and I’ve met a ton of other people that share my passion in these niches.
- Social Media – passionate people are all over Twitter and Facebook and they aren’t that hard to find and engage. In many cases you can even ask someone what they think of your site or business model and get some great initial feedback.
- Go to the Source – building a brand focused on football lovers? Go to a football game! Building a brand made for people who love wine? Start visiting wineries, go to the source and you’ll find plenty of your target customers.
I’m sure that my views on understanding the customer will expand greatly this week after attending Lean Startup Machine and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned and put it into practice! If you’re building a brand take a moment right now to write down on a blank sheet of paper (or your iPad because I think paper is out…right?) who your target customer is then ask yourself, am I building something they would use? Remember, you’re a customer for a number of different brands, why are you loyal to one brand or another? The more you understand your customer the better you’ll be able to build a brand they love, no get out there and meet your customer, what are you waiting for?