Learning Center

How to Find your Target Market with Customer Interviews

Shivani Raval

The biggest mistake startups make is that they have a great idea but no specific target market.

“Do not spend time on a product that no one wants in the first place,” advises Brandon Moffitt, COO and Co-Founder of Arcanium. “No matter how tempting or exciting, before working toward the first step of your project, get out there and talk to others. Find your target audience.”

Knowing your audience is necessary to achieve product-market fit, which is critical for entrepreneurs. You will likely already have some idea of your product and your intended audience. However, a successful startup will have an intimate understanding of both their intended audience and their solution to that audience’s problem.

How do you know what your audience wants?

Over-committing resources to developing an idea without a clear product-market fit is a recipe for failure. Always remember: no one loves your idea as much as you. This begs the question of how to know what your audience wants.

The best answer to this question is also the simplest: Ask them directly.

By conducting customer interviews, you can learn about the problems they are trying to solve from those who have those problems. This helps ensure that the product or service you develop is actually one their target market needs.

As you interview potential customers and learn more about their needs, use that information to build buyer personas. A persona, in this case, represents a specific segment of your target market. Equipped with buyer personas, you can understand and track their likes, dislikes, trends, and patterns. Check out HubSpot’s detailed guide on the subject for more information on buyer personas and how to build them.

As a general rule, you should aim to interview around 5–6 people for each persona in your target market.

How will you ask the right questions?

Just meeting with potential customers is not enough. You need to ask the right questions. In particular, you should focus on the problem to be solved.

Make sure to have a list of questions prepared before the interview. All of your questions should be designed to help you achieve product-market fit. A simple way to meet this goal is by asking quantitative and qualitative questions to learn about your target audience’s pain points.

For quantitative questions:

  • Ask about the value they get or would get from a particular type of solution.
  • Ask them what barriers prevent them from making a purchase.
  • Ask them about spending habits or practices.

For qualitative questions:

  • Ask open-ended questions. Simple yes/no answers provide little to no insight.
  • Ask about the customer’s pain points and needs.
  • Ask questions to keep the conversation focused on the interviewee.

While having a good list of questions is necessary, be flexible. You want to stay on topic while also keeping the conversation fluid.

People love talking about themselves, so get your interviewees talking as much as possible. If you’re doing it right, you’ll find that your interviews uncover information that you had not considered before. These insights are invaluable for fine-tuning your idea.

Remember, these interviews aim not to advertise your product but to know your audience. Figure out what kind of product would be worth advertising based on audience input.

While interviewing, do:

  • Actively listen to learn.
  • Focus on and search for your customer’s problems.
  • Have an agile mindset.
  • Build rapport with the interviewee.
  • Ask the interviewee if they have any questions.
  • Ask them if they can recommend any other interviewees with similar problems to you.
  • More data is not necessarily better.
  • Information from the wrong interviewee could be counter-productive.

While interviewing, don’t:

  • Ask them to sign an NDA.
  • Make the interview about your product idea: It should be about the needs of your interviewee.
  • Monopolize the conversation: The whole point is to get your interviewee talking.
  • Fall victim to “tunnel vision”: Your original idea may not be the right way to meet your audience’s needs. The interviews are how you find out how to improve your idea.

For impactful companies, customer reviews are not a one-time thing. Understanding customers’ needs and expectations is part of the company’s culture and success.

Stay close to your customer by developing accessible, two-way lines of communication. It’s the best practice to encourage your startup to grow.