By: JD HancockCC BY 2.0

Finding the right gift is a pain – it shouldn’t be, but it is. My friend Søren has just launched a new product – It is a clever and useful little app that helps you give and receive the right gifts. 

We were chatting about the challenges of launching a product and getting people to visit the site and use it and be wowed by its value. I prefer thinking of it like this (people and value vs traffic). I asked Søren what he had tried to get people to the site.

We’ve tried lots of things, Google ads, Facebook ads, joining forums and trying to promote it in conversation. We even used 3rd party ad sharing networks – which had lots of poor quality traffic. We also monitored tweets from people asking about what gifts to get and politely suggested using our service.

“The single, most effective thing we did”

Despite the investment in advertising on Google and Facebook and all the effort in mining social media –  lots of people came to the site, but  the conversion to using the site and seeing the recommendations was still very low.

What worked for them was simple. Søren says:

But you know what really worked for us? The single, most effective thing we did that brought the most people who used the site, checked out the recommendations and ultimately bought something from our partner?  I commented on a thread on reddit by a guy who was concerned about what to get his family for Christmas!

I was very surprised! This single thing whilst not generated lots of page visits, generated the most valuable visits. Maybe I’m reading more into this, but a profound lesson was reinforced for me by Søren’s experience. – understand the problem people have and how (and where) they express it.


People have needs and favorite places to express them

I was really inspired by a tweet by my friend @paulKlipp:

‘People have needs’ and this is fundamentally true. Not meeting those needs can be a problem, it seems to me that needs also have channels where they are most effectively expressed. For any entrepreneur trying to understand problems in order to find a product/market, finding places where people express their needs is almost as crucial as the need itself.

The work in understanding where needs are expressed pays huge dividends. You find somewhere to engage with your audience and listen to their needs and demonstrate empathy and as you strive to solve them, you find a willing community to help you test your ideas.

As I work on building my app – Hashies – focused on helping communities have powerful conversations on Twitter, I am discovering that my engagement with those channels is vital to understand their pain points. Participating in these communities is also exceptionally rewarding in terms of learning new domains. If you aren’t already participating in these – I encourage you to take a look. A great place to find a list of Twitter chats is [update 04/June/2014: link is no longer valid]

So, as you do market research for your startup or are engaged in customer development, it might be worth your while to seek out the channels people use to express their needs as well as the needs themselves.

What are your thoughts on needs and channels? I’d love to hear and share the most – and least – effective things you’ve done for Customer Developement. 


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