Always think consumer first – but don’t just take my word for it…

Those who have worked with me at The Nurture Network are probably fed up of hearing me talk about always starting with the consumer (or customer) first, but the principle is vital whether you are starting with a business idea, or if you are looking to grow your brand with marketing. Quite simply, ideas and marketing only work if you know who you are trying to talk to, and want to attract. At the end of the day business is all about wooing other people!
Last week I had the fortune of attending the latest Stylist Business Network forum, which was once again attended by around 250 stylishly-dressed, driven women, considering starting a business.
The inspiration for the evening was Sophie Cornish, co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com, Mandy Haberman, inventor of the world leading anyway-up-cup, and Lisa Irlam, creator of the Swimovate watch. Each had some resounding lessons, hints, and often entertaining stories from their early days, but there one was one succinct commonality: When inventing a business idea you want to start out with a real consumer need. If you are able to seek out a problem (babies’ cups leaking) or a trend (a new preference for local boutiques) and create a solution to it, then you know you will have demand.
When it comes to marketing that product or idea the rules are exactly the same. Visualize your consumer, create a profile of them – where do they go, what do they read, what other brands do they like – and use this profile to work out where to reach them most easily. For what to say to them, craft your ‘key messages’ from their perspective. With your profile of them, you will have a sense of what is important to your consume – what they value, what is of use. Decide what it is about your product that will be most relevant or useful to them (not you).
All three founders also spoke of testing with their consumers a great deal: Find as many people that fit your consumer profile as possible (friends or off the street!) to test your idea, product or marketing. Listen for the messages that pop up multiple times and use these commonalities to improve your offering again and again. At the end of the day, a product just for you will only sell to you, so get multiple views to make your product or idea the best it can be.