A Day in the Life of Your Customer

To sell something effectively you really need to understand your customer. You need to understand who they are, what makes them tick, their motivations, fears, influencers, etc. You can look into customer profiling and personas as mechanisms for understanding your customers better.

Another tactic is to create a “day in the life” storyboard. Assuming you have a rough idea of who your customer is (or your prospect at the early stage), you can really dig into the details of their daily lives. Map out their entire schedule; essentially describing what they do when. Use sticky notes and plaster a wall with them. Make it visual.

The advantage of doing this is that you have a very complete overview of your customer’s daily life. You can now figure out (and experiment with) how and when to inject yourself into their lives. You can figure out when to interrupt people and have it be as seamless and painless as possible. If you’re looking to develop a daily use app that’s success depends on people using it every single day, then you better understand the optimal time for people to use your app. Having this information and validating it with users can have a significant impact on the product scope, feedback loops, etc.

highscore house daily routine

We found this strategy to be very effective for one of Year One Labs’ portfolio companies: HighScore House. They’re building a daily use app for helping parents motivate their children to perform daily activities and responsibilities. It’s value goes up with the frequency of use (by parents and kids), and so they needed to understand everyone’s daily routine. HighScore House is trying to inject itself into people’s daily routines and become a part of those routines; the best way to do that is to find the right moments and sneak in. By mapping out the daily routines of many parents and kids and understanding the patterns, they’ve now got hypotheses about how to get themselves in front of their customers at the right times during the day.

How and when your product will be used by your customers is critical. Understanding that is going to have a huge impact on the solution you provide. We encourage startups at Year One Labs to describe this process thoroughly as they’re doing Solution Interviews with prospects and developing their Minimum Viable Product. We also encourage startups to take “a day in the life” of their customers into account for experimental design. That means putting instrumentation and metrics in place to track usage by time, and learning qualitatively what was going on before usage and after.

When pitching your solution (to a prospect, investor, friend, etc.) you should be able to put yourself right into the target customer’s shoes. How would your customer describe your solution within their daily life? You have to be able to tell that story.

During the process of describing your solution in layman’s terms like a real person (from your customer’s perspective, not using marketing-speak), you are very likely to discover a lot of holes in your original logic and assumptions. You’ll realize you don’t quite understand how your prospects’ days work, and how important it is to really get into their heads and their schedules. You’ll find problems worth solving, and start seeing a lot more clarity on the functionality you need to build.

Think of the “day in the life” exercise as a way of describing a very detailed, human use case that goes beyond simply defining target markets and customer segments. Remember: You’re selling to people. You need to know how to reach them, interrupt them and make a difference in their lives at the exact moment when they need your solution.

April 26, 2011 Posted in Customer Development by

  • http://twitter.com/Briac Briac Guibert

    Nice stuff!
    It’s intriguing to me that most of the customer development process executed by startups (as described by Blank, Ries etc) is always classical UX practice, but wouldn’t be named so. For instance, what you describe here is usually called “mental models” in the field of UX. On that topic, I recommend reading Indi Young’s “Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior”, he gives a great research framework to align product development with user’s tasks, processes, and behaviors, a must-read.
    I would love to read a post on nextmontreal.com one day about how to bring UX Design and customer development together :-) (lean UX?)

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  • Umangsharma27

    It’s really an interesting and informative blog. ‘”A Day in the Life of Your Customer” is helpful to know your customers .

  • http://twitter.com/MrktngGuy34 Mike Lieberman

    This is excellent. Another tool we use is called Experience Mapping. Where we take a detailed look at each and every touch point for a client’s interaction with a business. From the time they see your website for the first time all the way through delivery of your product or service, billing, etc…every single aspect, even the smallest interaction is evaluated. The goal, to build in Little Wows! Little experiences that make the client/customer/prospect sit up and take notice. More importantly, tell the world to help grow your business.

    Check out these sites for more tips like this.

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  • http://www.novolinespielen.org Novoline

    My customers are the dumbest people on earth lol

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    Even though surveys and market research is good, sometimes the answers you get back aren’t always matched by the reality of what customers do or think. There can be a disconnect. There are all sorts of formal ways to do a day-in-the-life study. But you could also do a simple version. Find a way to watch how customers interact with your product or store. This is easier to do if you’re a bricks and mortar operator than if you’re online, but there bare ways to do the latter too.

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    The aim, to construct in Little Wows! Little knowledge that make the client/customer/prospect sit up and take notice. More significantly, notify the world to assist augment your business.

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Ben Yoskovitz
I'm VP Product at Codified (makers of VarageSale).

I'm also a Founding Partner at Year One Labs, an early stage accelerator in Montreal. Previously I founded Standout Jobs (and sold it).

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