- Jen Glantz is an entrepreneur and founder of the company Bridesmaid for Hire.
- She says studying your customer base is key before launching a side hustle or small business.
- Use social media to engage with your target audience and ask for feedback on products and services.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a side hustle is that they don’t ever speak to their target audience until the moment they’re ready to launch a business and try to sell a product or service.
I’m guilty of making that same mistake.
When I started my company Bridesmaid for Hire six years ago, I created packages and services that I thought would be a hit with my potential audience of people who’d want to hire a bridesmaid.
It turns out, I was wrong, and many of my offerings were never appealing to my audience. It was only after I began listening to my potential clients’ needs and challenges that I was able to revamp, innovate, and optimize my services.
By doing this, I went from having just a handful of clients each month to scaling my business and bringing in six figures.
If you’re in the process of launching a side hustle or want to make improvements to your current business, here’s how to take a step back and get to know your audience before you get in front of them and ask them to buy something.
1. Answer an initial important question
When you start a side hustle, don’t assume everyone in the world will be your customer. Instead, brainstorm a more specific understanding of who your target customers will be.
Start by answering the important question of who you want your side hustle to help and how you want it to help them. Fill in the parentheses below:
This side hustle helps people who are (what challenges are they facing), who also need (what do they need from you and why do they need it?), who also consume (what other brands or side hustles does your ideal audience member buy from), who are (add in any demographic information of your audience that you are targeting: age, income, location, etc.).
2. Find their communities
While entrepreneurs are often eager to get directly in front of the target audience, we first have to learn the art of observing and listening.
Start by figuring out which communities your audience is part of, from the social media groups they hang out in (Facebook groups, Linkedin Groups,
channels, etc.), to the conferences they go to (both in-person or virtually), to where they go to interact and meet new people (think local community activities to networking opportunities).
Find out where these places are and try to go and observe them. Within these groups, identify the problems or challenges your audience has that your business idea can remedy.
For example, if I’m creating a luggage tag company for millennial women, I might join a Facebook group for millennial female travelers and search the group for what people have said about luggage tags (finding out other brands they like, problems they’ve had, etc).
For conferences or other communities, try to find ways to spend quality time in those communities to get a better understanding of what your audience needs and cares about.
3. Engage in social listening
Another way to passively listen to your audience (meaning listening to them behind-the-scenes) is by tapping into social media listening tools, like Union Metrics, Brand Mentions, or FollowerWonk. These tools let you monitor different social media channels to see what your audience is saying about you, your side hustle, and even other brands they care about.
Using these tools can help you measure overall brand sentiment (how many positive, negative, or neutral things people are saying about you), see the keywords your audience uses when they mention you on social media, and more.
This can be helpful once you finally start to build an audience on social media, which might be something you do even before launching your first official product or service. That way, you can connect with your audience and understand their needs before selling to them.
4. Ask for their feedback
One of the best ways to truly get to know your audience is by having personal interactions with them. Talking to customers one-on-one before launching a product or service can give you valuable insights to help you make improvements, pivot your marketing strategy, or create better pricing options.
Consider creating a survey that you can send out to potential customers (either by sharing it within communities they are a part of or posting it on your social media feed). You’ll be able to collect their responses to strategic questions and better understand how they’re feeling about your business offerings.
Another way to do this is to ask a handful of people in your audience to jump on a quick call with you or to test out your product or service for free. You’re more likely to get people to want to be “beta users” for you if you offer them some sort of reward (like a discount code, gift card, or free product or service).
Even after you launch, staying in touch with your core audience is key. These strategies will allow you to continually optimize what you’re selling and make it match your audience’s needs as much as possible.