Targeting customers for their marketing influence

From Picking your first customers: the gradient of influence by Roy Bahat:

At Bloomberg Beta, we often ask founders who they will target first to use their product. The “top 10%” answer is to think about the kinds of customers that (a) have greatest need for the product and (b) are easiest to attract and serve.

Yet this approach might be misguided. It works for maximizing the value of *those customers* to the company. It may fail to maximize the value of the company, though.

One way to think of it: your first customers are your first hires as marketers. You want them to be as good at their job as possible.

Imagine all your customers as you did before (in terms of how valuable they’ll find you, and how easy they’ll be to attract). Then, consider that some of them have influence on others. You’ll find pockets where one kind of customer influences another, and some customer classes who are widely influential, or influential to several important adjacent customer classes. Think of this as a gradient of influence among your customers.

You want to target a class of customers, at first, who are as high up on that gradient as possible — even if they’re harder to attract.

Notes:
(1) Fascinating — but I’m not convinced. As you sell to your first customers, your top priority is to achieve and confirm product-market fit. Nothing else matters.
(2) Cf. Mark Andreesen’s The most important factor in startup success.

4 thoughts on “Targeting customers for their marketing influence

  1. I totally agree, I am currently pursuing this strategy with our startup, Neighbor.fm. We are reaching out to the higher visibility people in the Chicago tech community to get on the site and become part of the group of first users.

  2. How do they define “influential” customers? Many opinion makers are late to the game. However, it’s valuable to keep refining your customer focus. Find the core pain-point of what your product is solving and it’ll help you avoid the noise that comes from nice-to-haves vs. need-to-haves.

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