Written by: Lexie Lu
We all know the first few steps of starting a business.
First, you need to do market research to find a niche target audience. This audience has to have demands that your product or service can act as a solution to. You have to find out as much as you can about this target audience and appeal to them.
It’s important during the market research phase of your business to explore your target audience, but don’t neglect other potential clients. Seeing if your product or service resonates with people with other interests can tell you a lot about how successful you’ll be.
Here are a few reasons why testing outside your target audience is good for business.
If you watch HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” you know usability is a huge factor in a business’s success.
The show is about Pied Piper, a fictional middle-out compression company that can store an incredible amount of data. Think of iCloud on steroids. When the company was ready to send out a beta, they only sent it to other programmers who raved about the platform. This caused them to launch the platform early, and it wasn’t received well by the public. This happened because users who weren’t programmers were confused by the interface and didn’t know how to use the product.
This problem occurred because Pied Piper only tested their product with a specific audience that would know how to use it. You’ll want to test your product’s usability with all demographics.
A new member of your target audience should be able to understand your business just as much as the most experienced person. Content and levels of advice can range based on experience, but everyone should universally understand how your product is used.
Send a beta to people in different target audiences. Give them surveys based on their experience with the usability of your product. Don’t focus on content or whether or not they enjoy your niche. Focus on how they use it and if see if they’re confused. If people outside your target audience can successfully use your product, then you’ll have less to worry about.
When you’re getting ready to launch, your first instinct is to go to authority figures in your niche and ask them what they think about your business. It’s always a great feeling to get their vote of confidence, but don’t stubbornly listen to them.
Chances are no one is looking to sabotage your business. However, you have to remember that some people are still your competition. Business owners that target the same audience you do are aware of industry trends, but they also have to look out for their own business. A super villain wouldn’t go to a superhero and ask what he thinks about the master plan.
You shouldn’t take the opinions of your competition to heart. They might give you negative feedback simply because they’re so consumed by their own business they aren’t willing to open their minds about yours. Authority figures in other niches might give more precise advice about your product because they’re more focused on the functionality and potential of your product instead of the content itself.
Avoid Consumer Bias
The only time your target audience should exclusively be tested is when you’re doing market research for the business itself. When it comes to certain products that your business launches, testing outside your target audience is helpful because you are out of your comfort zone. You get to avoid people who might be biased toward your product because it revolves around their demographic.
Get away from the bias of your audience by testing other audiences. Let’s say you only give betas to your target audience. You get a ton of positive reviews because people are loyal to your business and they’re pleased with the fact you’re launching a product. This can give you false hope and might lead to a disappointing launch.
You have a ton of positive reviews, but you still might have bugs and glitches that your audience completely ignored. Testing with people who don’t care about your business can lead to them catching glitches that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
Staying in your comfort zone can hurt you after a while. Only dishing out products for people you know will love them is safe, and your business won’t improve in the long run. Testing outside your target audience is the extra challenge your business needs to get to the next level.
You can convince loyal customers what you’re doing is great, but can you convince others who aren’t that interested? This extra challenge will push you to appeal to all different demographics. Even if you fail, it’ll be an amazing learning experience that you can take with you in future endeavors.
Your business skills will improve if you challenge yourself to branch out to other audiences. If you can sell them on your business, then you can certainly sell people in your audience on your business.
Let’s pretend you test within your target audience and everything goes well. You have no complaints and nothing goes wrong. You’re coasting into your launch.
What happens when something does go wrong?
Consumers outside your target audience will most likely have questions and concerns. This presents a perfect opportunity to test your other business operations. How will your customer service department respond to certain questions? How will your marketing department respond if your campaign is failing? What if your sales department can’t close the deal with people who are on the fence about your product?
These problems can come to the forefront when you’re testing with other audiences. You’ll be able to practice certain situations that are inevitable. You might not get this same experience with your niche audience.
Test the Waters
Take the leap and test outside your audience. You’ll learn more about your business and be more prepared to succeed!
Lexie Lu is a designer and blogger. She contributes to the design world and usually has a cup of coffee in close proximity. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.