The Day-in-the-Life Exercise

customer acquisition - day-in-the-life exercise

Startups build solutions that either solve problems or unlock opportunities for a particular user or paying customer.  But the solution can only provide value if it gets into the hands of the intended target.  That’s where strategies for awareness, influence and customer acquisition come into play.  But how does a startup identify all of the possible strategies and partnerships to choose from?  Consider using my day-in-the-life exercise.

Put Your Customer as the Center of their Universe

The exercise involves placing your target persona as the center of their own universe and with various constituents circling around them.  These constituents are the people and business entities that interact with them on some regular frequency, which doesn’t have to be daily.

If you think about it, any person or entity that is a part of their universe has an opportunity to influence them in some way.  Think of it like the gravitational forces that exists between astronomical objects.  Some forces are stronger than others but everything works in a system.

Who does your target customer interact with on a regular basis?  What type of influence of what significance does each have on your target customer?  Do any of these influential entities have synergies with your offering and the problem it solves?

The hope of this exercise is that some number of the entities will be ideal awareness generators, influencers, resellers, solution integration partners, co-marketing partners, and more.  I especially find this exercise helpful when trying to identify the best category of resellers for a product.

Let’s explore the concept further using some examples.

Example:  K-12 Schools

Target Persona – School principal

A Day in Their Life:

    • Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
    • Software vendors and their resellers (curriculum, administration, reporting, etc)
    • Security services
    • Content providers (books, videos, etc)
    • Cleaning services

Example:  Doctor’s Offices

Target Persona – Office manager

A Day in Their Life:

    • Electronic health records (EHR) software vendors and their resellers
    • Medical device equipment manufacturers and their resellers
    • Pharmaceutical companies
    • Facility cleaning services
    • Linen cleaning services
    • Accountant
    • Attorney
    • Insurance providers
    • Hospitals where practicing privileges exist
    • State medical licensing board
    • Building landlord

Example:  Restaurants

Target Persona – General Manager

A Day in Their Life:

    • Software vendors and their resellers (scheduling, bookkeeping, inventory mgmt.)
    • Point of sale system vendor and their resellers
    • Food and beverage supply companies
    • Accountant
    • Security services
    • State compliance agency
    • Building landlord

Using the Assessment

Hopefully the examples give you a good sense for how broad you can take the exercise.  At first, just get into brainstorming mode and write down all people and entities you can think of without scrutiny.  This will result in some you know will have low or no value.  That’s OK because those might give you ideas of others that you wouldn’t have otherwise identified.

Although you see only one target persona used for the various examples, most B2B sales involve convincing more than just one constituent.  If so, conduct the day-in-the-life exercise for each.  For example, selling to K-12 schools might also involve important interactions with the teachers, student parents or school board administration.  Selling to doctor’s offices might involve the practicing physicians or a multi-practice group executive.  You get the idea.

The customer discovery interviews you conduct during the idea development phase are great for mapping out your target customer’s universe.  But remember not to just identify who exists in their typical day/week/month.  Only after understanding the role they play and the relative influence they have with your target persona(s), will you best be able to assess the possibility for overall synergies and value-creation.

After you identify some possibly good partnerships, you’ll need to conduct another round of discovery with them to validate.  Hopefully one or more of the entities you identify can provide value for some important aspect of your customer acquisition strategy.  The ones that actively sell stuff to your target persona(s) are candidates to resell your product, either with or without technical integration to your product.  The ones that are trusted service providers to your target persona(s) are candidate influencers and join marketing partners.

Best vs Worst Target Personas

All of the examples I gave were small businesses, not consumers or large enterprise organizations.  I believe it is true that small businesses or roles within them are probably the best targets.  That’s because they aren’t big enough to have most of the resources they need within the company (on the payroll).  Instead, they need to seek services and have interactions with numerous third parties.

If you don’t target small businesses, don’t worry.  The day-in-the-life exercise can still be valuable but it just might not lead to as many opportunities as with my examples above.  If you target a fairly specific consumer demographic, versus a broad demographic, this exercise might work great.

If you target large enterprise organizations, the exercise it much harder.  But give it a shot anyway.  For sure you will identify multiple categories of software that are central to the function or role you target.  And the same for industry consultants, thought leaders, and the like.

Visualizing the Result

This exercise is all about relationships of various types.  And it’s not just the relationship between the target persona and their day-in-the-life influencers that is valuable.  Relationships among the influencers also can help inform your strategy and best approach to optimizing it.

Instead of just listing out the various day-in-the-life entities, diagram them in some manner.  Use difference sizes and colors of your graphical elements to signify things like the significance or type of influence/relationship they have on the target persona.  This exercise is so unique for each startup that it’s hard to give specific recommendations that will work for all.  Use your creativity and do this exercise with your co-founders and close advisors.

After diagramming the various relationships with the first target persona, determine how to best add any other target personas you identified as important to your customer acquisition strategy.  Map the relationships of the entities to them as well.  Finally, consider identifying any high-value relationships between the influencing entities themselves.  Doing that might help identify three-way partnerships or paths to best getting the attention of your most desired entities.

Summary

I hope you find this exercise valuable to your own venture.  I find that it’s not just valuable in the very early days when the initial business plan is being created (see related article titled “Your Initial Business Plan is a Huge List of Assumptions”), but at various points in the evolution of your company when new products are built, new markets served and more.

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