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  • Writer's pictureSophie

3 things to think about when you’re ready to grow your business

All three things are about your customers. Who are they, where do they go online and what problems are you solving for them?

1. Your customers. What problems are you solving for them?

Take some time to think hard about this, the answers may not be obvious. Let’s look at Airbnb – in the early days they weren’t simply out to provide accommodation for travellers. Theirs was a solution for people who wanted cheap accommodation and, crucially, who’d enjoy staying in homes not hotels. For the homeowners their solution was a hassle-free way to earn some extra cash.

Once you’ve identified the specific problems your customers have, next look at how they’re already solving these problems for themselves. In the case of Airbnb, their target customers were using sites like, message boards like Craiglist, as well as hotels, hostels and traditional B&Bs. Think about how your solution is different from, and better than the ways people are already solving their problems. This is your unique value proposition.

2. Your customers, who are they, really?

When Airbnb first started they knew who their ideal customers were. Loads of people go on holiday, and just about everyone has needed an overnight stay somewhere at some point. But in the beginning, Airbnb’s ideal customer wasn’t anyone who travels. People who could afford high-end hotels wouldn’t give that up, and introverts would cringe at the thought of sharing.

The company knew they needed to find exactly the right people who would love their new service and talk about it on social media. Airbnb’s unique value proposition is authenticity and affordability. You get to experience a real home, sometimes even share people’s lives AND it’s cheaper. Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can’t compete with that. Airbnb had two early adopters in mind, extrovert explorers looking for affordable accommodation and authentic experiences, and open-minded homeowners looking to earn some easy cash. Understanding the characteristics and motivations of your customers allows you to create marketing messages that cut through the noise on the internet and speak directly to them.

3. Your customers, where do they go when they go online?

Building personas for your customers also means you can find the channels you need to use to reach them. Google adwords, social media and programmatic display advertising allow you to target your customers specifically – but this is only useful when you already know who they are and where they are online. Airbnb knew their early adopters, both travellers and homeowners were using sites like Craigslist. They were confident their solution was better than scam-filled message boards. But Craigslist had something they didn’t – lots of users. A vital part of their early strategy was using Craigslist as a channel to their customers.

Your customers are online too. Understanding what sites they’re already using means you can find the right channels to reach them. But remember, you can’t beat word of mouth. Your marketing strategy emerges from your business strategy and the focus is always on your customers. Make things people want, don’t make people want things.

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