Instructions for finding your customer segment

Jul 01 2015

The greatest value at the Reese News lab is desirability.

  1. Come up with an idea for a product people need:  

In my team’s case we were given the mission of coming up with an idea that would improve public discourse (I know, we might as well try to save the world). After a lot of brainstorming, and help from our coworkers, we decided to pursue the idea of developing a debate game that would provide college students with a relaxed and safe environment to discuss heated topics. During the process of making the game fun, we came up with three different versions of the game- one that would provide college students with a relax environment to discuss controversial topics with their peers. This same version of the game would also provide parents and their children a relaxed environment to discuss topics of importance. This way, parents would get to know their teenaged children better. The third version of the game would provide a fun and engaging environment for classroom discussions.

  1. Reach out to people, by phone, email or in person, who you believe will be interested in your product:

After deciding who would be the best person to use our game, we began to reach out to college students, educators and others who would give us useful feedback to make our game a good fit for our audience.

In the beginning, we went around the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and asked students to play with the physical version of the game. We also Googled schools and technology experts in the educational field and sent them emails hoping to get a reply from them. Thankfully, some of the people we contacted replied and gave us great feedback and ideas, and then directed us to other people who would be interested in our product.

  1.  LISTEN to the people you talk to, and watch for data bombs:

One of the features we really wanted to add to the game was an app that would work with the game to provide players with current issues or facts to support their arguments. After college students tested our game they said they wouldn’t like the game to include an app because it would make it more complicated. And so we got rid of that feature.

The first educator we spoke to was a debate coach, he said he really liked the idea but he would prefer a digital version of the game in order to keep germs from spreading. As a result, we moved from a card game platform to a digital app. This ended up working out perfectly because after talking to several middle school and high school teachers we discovered a large portion of the schools are moving towards the Digital Learning Initiative which aims to incorporate technology in schools curricula.

In addition to reaching out to prospective users and educational experts, we reached out to other game developers. And this is where we searched for data bombs. A data bomb is a dramatic statistic that changes people’s opinions on something, and these are the pieces of information that illustrate the impact your product can have. One of the most common responses we received was an “mhm!” whenever we told experts about our idea of adding function cards that debaters could use against their opponents. Moreover, they verbally expressed excitement for this aspect of the app so we decided to keep it.

  1. Create a product for those who get excited about it because they will pay for it:

Nobody will give you money for what you are creating if they don’t need it, want it or desire it.

I remember in my business 101 class at community college, my professor said, “If you find a need and you’re able to fulfill it with a product, then you have a winner.” However, that’s not as easy as it sounds.

When we first came up with the three versions of the game, we were most excited about the commercial one. We thought (John Clark, director of the Reese News Lab, says he doesn’t care what we think but what the customers think) college students would love it, so we imagined them having heated but fun conversations on controversial topics. However, when we went out to test the game, they said they don’t like to debate so they wouldn’t buy this game. Because every time we told young adults about our game they were not excited, but teachers really liked to use our app in their classroom, we decided to divorce the commercial version and commit to the educational app.

This way we found our customer segment. Our customers are those who are willing to pay for our product and get excited every time they hear about it. They are the ones who tell us it would add structure to classroom discussions and allow every student to voice their opinion. Lastly, they are the ones who give hope every time we meet with them.


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