How To Do Niche Interviews
The most important part of marketing is being sure we have an Offer that our market actually wants.
If you are having difficulty choosing between options, try the Niche Decision Template.
Once you have a strong idea which option you’d like to pursue for now, the next step is to do Niche Interviews.
I’ve adapted the following exercise from Tad Hargrave’s book “The Niching Spiral” —with full permission—and have integrated my own thoughts:
First, list your assumptions…
Imagine you are talking to your ideal client. Complete each of the following sentences 3 times:
1. I am assuming that the problem/frustration you have, that my service can help you solve, is ___________________________.
2. I am assuming that the goal/result/dream you’d love to achieve, that my service can help you achieve, is _____________________________.
3. I am assuming that the type of solution you would find most helpful (to solve the problem or achieve the goal) is _____________________________.
4. I’m assuming you’ve already tried to solve the problem with [alternate solution] __________________, and it hasn’t worked well, because: ___________________.
(Alternate solutions could include trying to read books to solve the problem; attending classes; talking with friends/family about it; trying other service providers; trying other popular products out there; or doing nothing and hoping the problem goes away.)
Now, go and ask them. Here’s how:
Send a short message (via Email, or private message via Facebook or LinkedIn) to possible ideal clients, inviting a brief conversation.
Where to find people to ask? Ideas:
- Your current or previous clients might be willing to refer you.
- Post on your own Facebook timeline asking your friends if they know anyone struggling with _____________ and would be willing to talk with you because you’re developing a solution for people like them.
- Send it out to your friends over email.
- Go to online groups where your ideal clients are, and if it’s appropriate for the group, post your request.
- Find niche mates (others that sell stuff to your ideal audience) and contact the people in their audience (e.g. look for the social media commenters).
What to ask them?
“Hi ____, I’ve got this thing I’m working on — it’s something I’m experimenting with. It’s tailored for _______ (type of person) struggling with __________________ (type of problem) and I think it does _________________ (result), but I want to make sure I’ve got it right. Can I speak with you and get your honest feedback?”
Make sure you position this as an experiment. People don’t like being mean in their feedback, but most people are up to help an experiment.
“I am looking to do some brief market research and want to talk to __________ (type of person) who are struggling with ___________ and want to (get this kind of result) ______________. I would like to spend just 15 minutes on the phone to ask a few questions (and I’ll also provide any resources/ connections to support in exchange for their time). If you know of anyone who matches this description can you send them my way? Thank you in advance!”
If busy, even 5-10 minutes will help. If they have time, go through as many of these questions as you can, but be courteous! ☺
What to say on the phone…
The conversation might go something like this:
“I’m thinking of getting into providing XYZ service but I want to make sure I understand what people are really looking for. Your honest answers are very helpful.”
1. Share a few of your assumptions (what you filled out above) and see if they agree.
Take copious notes on what they say!
If they are OK with it, record the call, letting them know it’s completely confidential.
2. If there’s additional time on the call, share about your service briefly, then ask:
Would you research something like this? If so, how would you research?
Where do they recommend that you show up or get word out to right people?
What do you like most about the idea?
What would you change or eliminate?
How would this help you or solve any problems for you?
What would make it more useful for you, or What would be your ideal version of this service/product?
How much do you think something like this would cost? Is it a good deal?
Have you ever bought this kind of thing?
[If they have not bought it] What kept you from buying it? What else do you use to handle this problem?
[If they have bought it] How did you hear about it? How could the thing have been improved?
If that problem were solved, what would the impact of that be for you? Would it save you time? Money? Relationship issues? Health?
Describe for me how you would want to use this product/service.
Before the end of the call…
Before you end the call, ask: “Is there anyone else you know whom I could talk to for feedback on this?”
Finally, if it feels like a fit and you’re ready, you can straight up ask them, “So, is this [your service] the kind of thing you’d want to sign up for if you could?”
If they say “no” you can say, “Thank you so much for your honesty. Can you help me understand why? Where doesn’t it feel like a fit? What would make this better?”
And then listen. People will help you design the perfect service for them.
Get more feedback, then integrate…
After each interview, it’s helpful to take a few minutes to revisit your List of Assumptions — improving them based on your new information and “feel” for your ideal customer.
Also ask yourself: “What is one improvement I can make to my service or product based on the interview I just had?”
Get back in touch…
Finally get back in touch with these people and say, “Can I share what I finally came up with, based on my conversations with you and others like you?”
If you do a dozen of these interviews, you’ll be further ahead than others in your field.
As an example, Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome was creating a product for people interested in buying a food truck, so he emailed 400 existing food truck owners (they would be able to give good feedback because they went through that phase) and 20 responded quickly. Then he sent a second email (something like “Just wanted to make sure you saw this…”) and got another 50 responses. He talked to most of those 70 people, before creating his product.
Also talk to your peers…
Another type of Niche Interview is to talk to business peers.
Ask your business peers what they think you do.
Ideally, you want to get to the point where they say, “Oh, you’re the XYZ guy/gal!” …and you like their answer!
Until then, you need to keep clarifying (do more niche interviews!) — specifying the problem the market wants you to solve, and how you solve it uniquely — so your business peers understand it quickly.
I’d love to hear how your niche interviews go for you! Contact me via my website: www.GeorgeKao.com