How to Create With the Customer In Mind

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Your online courses will be successful if you can give your customers what they are seeking – but first you have to know what they want. In this LMScast Joshua Millage and Christopher Badgett will tell you how to create with the customer in mind, and that begins with learning to see from their perspective.

One of your greatest challenges as an online instructor is getting past what you envision for your students and finding out what they envision for themselves.

There are 3 key questions to consider in designing your courses:

  • Who are you serving?
  • What are you solving?
  • How are you different?

Knowing your customers is the primary key to reaching them. Segmenting your market helps you identify your target market and its sub-markets. For example, in developing the LifterLMS platform we wanted to address the eLearning market, so we focused on edupreneurs, but we primarily wanted to create a tool for solopreneurs – especially those new to course development.

You need to know exactly what you want to create and then seek a market that you can profit from. You might build a sensational training program, but if your intended customers can’t afford what you’re offering, they can’t buy it. Research your target audience to determine what they can afford, and how deep their passion for your subject is. The more they want to learn what you can teach them, the more money they will be willing to spend for it.

Understand your end-user’s persona. What kind of person will want to take your course? What is their lifestyle? What are their primary interests? The best way to learn about potential customers is to find them, interview them, and connect with them. Then you can build solid customer relationships that result in return customers and referrals for your courses.

Ask for feedback from your students and listen to what they tell you with an open mind. Let their input drive innovation as you expand your course offerings. Also watch what other edupreneurs are doing to see what works and what fails for them. Have a vision for the future of your business, including the prospect of growing into follow-on markets once your beachhead market is profitable.

Making your online courses work requires a balance between defining what you want to build, and learning how to create with the customer in mind. Our LifterLMS course development platform will help you build your courses using these principles. You can try a demo of LifterLMS and see for yourself what it can do for you.

Remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

Episode Transcript

Joshua: Hello, Everyone. Welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m Joshua Millage. I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett. Today we’re talking about how to create from the customer’s perspective. Chris, you have a funny little poster over there on your wall that has to do with this topic. Tell me more about that.

Christopher: Awesome. That poster is basically a roadmap created by Bill Aulet. I believe he’s a Stanford entrepreneurship teacher. I could be wrong on the school, but one of those schools. He’s launched several successful startups himself with co-founders, but essentially he has created a roadmap for entrepreneurs to follow, which is on the wall. I’m always looking at it, because it’s not … First off, my hat comes off to you educator entrepreneurs out there, because it’s not easy.

The hardest thing to do in the world is make to make something out of nothing. It could be fun. It could be exhilarating, but one of the biggest traps we can get into is thinking you have all the answers in your head and not having a customer focus. This roadmap up here which I also have in this book right here, and I can bring it a little closer, starts with how to really focus in on customers and the smart way to approach it.

Joshua: That’s cool. Can you walk us through some of the steps there?

Christopher: The first part, and I’ll say this if you’re talking to what I would say a real entrepreneur, and you’re trying to get feedback, really the number one questions are: who are you serving, what are you solving, how are you different? Those are key things. If we don’t have a target market, we’re missing the boat. It’s a total waste of time. Most people, they’re not focused enough. They may have identified a market, like let’s say moms, but you usually need to go another layer down, like what kind of moms.

The very first steps according to Bill Aulet in his book Disciplined Entrepreneurship is to segment your market. What market are you going after, and then within that market, identify the beachhead market. I think we can talk about that a little bit in terms of LifterLMS. There’s a lot of people in the eLearning space, but our beachhead market that we want to go after is, and that we’ve gone after successfully is, the education entrepreneurs, the solopreneur who’s putting together their training program or starting to put together a training program that includes other teachers, but that’s our beachhead market.

If you think about a beachhead, you think about in the World Wars storming the Beach of Normandy. Once you take the beach, then you can start looking at where to go from there, but it all starts with defining that beachhead market and also doing your research and figuring out what the total addressable market or TAM is.

Joshua: Got it. That’s something that really resonates with me is you want to make sure you’re building a product or a service in a market that can sustain the type of the company that you want to build. If you want to grow a large company with lots of revenue, the market has to have a lot of money. You can’t build into a market that doesn’t have a lot of money. I think that that’s a really good point to make, because it is important to focus on a niche, but the niche needs to have enough money. A good example of that is the classic dog training. Why do people talk about dog training? Well, because pet owners are ridiculous. They’re price insensitive like crazy. They spend ridiculous amounts of money.

Christopher: Or new parents with a baby coming.

Joshua: New parents with a baby, but it’s focused enough, and you can find these people that exist in groups to talk with them and make connections and grow a business.

Christopher: Absolutely. Just on that note, another thing you do with the beachhead market is you want to identify that end-user persona. In the marketing world, we call that a customer avatar. That end-user persona, you want to identify what’s going on in their life, what they’re like, what their interests are, the demographics or psychographics. You also want to go out and do interviews with real ones that are out there in reality who may need this product idea you have or the service. As Steve Blank says, get out of the building and go do some interviews before you build a single line of code or start developing prototypes and things like that.

Joshua: Right, absolutely. I would agree with that. He also says no prototype survives its first interaction with a customer or no product. I think that’s pretty good. I don’t think any course will either in a lot of ways. There definitely needs to be a 2.0 and make adjustments for people.

Christopher: Absolutely. I think it’s important to point out too that some of the entrepreneur education out there or materials if you’re trying to figure out how to launch a business or create a product or service, sometimes you get mixed messages. If you study an entrepreneur or serial entrepreneur like Mark Cuban, he’ll say his number one thing is ubiquity. When he goes after something, he wants mass market. I know one of the things in his portfolio of businesses I believe is Magnolia Pictures, a movie production company.

Most people watch movies at some point in their life or if you’re looking at Steve Jobs, and you look at the iPhone or the smartphone, almost everybody or a huge mass market is into smartphones. Now there’s segments within that, but if you’re new to the game, I think ubiquity is really hard, and it’s a long shot. There’s something called survivor bias, where you only hear about the Mark Cubans and the Steve Jobs that actually made it. That road is paved with failed businesses.

If you take a disciplined approach, and you really start with a very clearly defined beachhead market with the end-user profile, with real people that are saying, “Yes, what you have sounds interesting,” you do your lifecycle analysis of what their experience is through your offer and all businesses have a diffusion of innovation, and they grow and die. So it’s important to just be realistic about all that stuff, but let your customer drive that innovation. Let that end-user persona drive the innovation. Let them tell you where they think you’re wrong and listen to them.

Joshua: And not be overly emotional so that you shut down, which I think a lot of people do, a lot of people do.

Christopher: A business is like having a baby. You got to let the baby out, and you got to get feedback.

Joshua: Definitely.

Christopher: You can’t take it personally. It’s like its own creature.

Joshua: Right, exactly. That’s really good. What else, Chris? Are there other steps in this map?

Christopher: I just want to identify that a lot of … There’s a lot of opportunity if you think in the fourth dimension or in time. You’ve got to have your marathon pants on if you want to start a business, if you want to be an entrepreneur. It takes some serious stamina. Part of that that can give you hope and faith when you’re thinking about your customer perspective is when you think about your beachhead market, your early adapters, your innovators, the people who are most likely to listen to you and use your product, the people who you can give the most aggressive messaging to that you really are like carving out a name for, if you look past them, if you get success with the beachhead market, then there’s other what are known as follow-on markets, other customers, other market segments, so it’s important to realize that just look long-term.

Don’t take shortcuts and try to go straight to the follow-on markets or be too general, but at the same time don’t feel like you’re stuck with your early adapter beachhead market. If you look at the eLearning space in general which we’re in, if I was in the content game, the publishing game, the last place I would create content around would be development courses, because it’s a market driven by developers that naturally the Udemys and the Lyndas of the world, the Pluralsights, all these places started … They’ve been doing development eLearning for a decade. There’s a new arc that’s just coming online with other offline things like yoga or lifestyle courses and things that are now coming online. These are follow-on markets. It’s important to look at where different industries are at if you’re going to play the publisher game.

Joshua: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s some great ideas. You’re right. You can gather some of the best innovative ideas from what other industries are doing. I think that’s a great point. Cool. Well, we’re coming down to the end of it. I think my suggestion for people, which we mentioned earlier, is always get out of the building and talk to your customers and try and find some common things, but don’t think that you also have to build everything for everyone because if you do, you’re not going to wind up happy there either. It’s a balancing act between the two. That’s my final thoughts. What about you Chris?

Christopher: I just want to piggyback on what you’re saying and echo your statement about having an open mind when your customers talk back. Just be open, because that’s where the real nuggets of wisdom and value that you can then mine as an entrepreneur and develop come from.

Joshua: Absolutely. All right. Well, thank you, Everyone, for listening. We’ll see you next week with another episode of LMScast.

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