Collect insights from your target market

You can have the most creative idea in the world—but it’s nothing without a customer.

In this module, you’ll start validating your entrepreneurial idea by testing it with potential customers. You’ll verify that the product or service you’ve dreamed up will appeal to real customers in the market where you hope to sell it.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Describe your ideal customer
  • Describe your ideal market
  • Identify different ways to determine product-market fit
  • Conduct interviews with potential customers

By the end of this module, you’ll be ready to start developing a plan for taking your product or service to market.

How to collect insights

How viable is your creative solution?

Who's your ideal customer?

Who's your market?

Conducting customer interviews

Take entrepreneurial action

(Required activity) Time to get real! Use the resources in the further help section below to conduct your own customer discovery.

  1. Create a profile of your ideal customer
  2. Describe your target market. To move through this phase efficiently, remember to ask a librarian for help!
  3. Interview 10 people who meet the profile of your ideal customer.

Reflection questions

  • Describe what it felt like to work through the customer discovery process.
  • What’s the most valuable thing you learned through the process?
  • What’s the most surprising thing you learned?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Additional resources

How to do the "product/market fit" survey with your customers

For further help

Your ideal customer

1. Use your knowledge and your imagination to flesh out the following aspects of the ideal person you’d like to buy your product or service:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geographical location
  • Job
  • Education
  • Income
  • Family situation
  • Religion
  • Lifestyle

2. Complete your customer profile by answering the following questions:

  • What’s your customer’s self-concept? (How do they see themselves? How do they feel about their self-worth? On what do they base their sense of self-worth?)
  • What are their goals? (Depending on your entrepreneurial idea, you might want to explore their personal goals, their professional goals, or both.)
  • What are their values? (Values are the principles we hold dear, the beliefs we’re unwilling to compromise on. Knowing your customer’s values is critical because values drive much of our behavior.)
  • How does your ideal customer perceive the problem you’ve identified? (How would they describe it in terms of its scope and its severity? What or who do they think causes the problem?)
  • How do they feel when they think about the problem you want to solve?
  • What have they already done to try to fix the problem?
  • How motivated are they to try an alternative solution?

Your target market

With the help of secondary sources (such as government data and industry reports), answer the following questions:

  • Where are your ideal customers likely to live?
  • What generation or age range are they likely to fall into?
  • How much are they currently spending on products and services related to your solution?
  • Who are the competitors offering your ideal customers products and services similar to your solution?

Remember to ask a librarian for help conducting this market research. They may be able to suggest other questions worth investigating.

Sample email requesting a customer discovery interview

SUBJECT: Seeking your input into new after-school program for pre-teen girls

Hi Juanita,

We met last week at the skating rink, when you commented on my “Girls Rule” knapsack. It was great to meet Sammi and learn about her passion for paleontology.

I believe that young girls should be encouraged to explore their interests, even if they don’t fit into the traditional mould. So I’m now on a mission to create an after-school program that will enable girls from 10 to 12 to dive deep into the interests that make them unique.

At this early stage in my thinking, I’m trying to connect with as many moms and girls as I can to gather their input. Would you be willing to chat with me for a few minutes about this project sometime this week or next?

Twenty minutes should do, and I’m available most evenings between 6 and 8 p.m.

Thank you ahead of time for any insights you can share. They’ll be much appreciated!

Kind regards,

Ellen Turner

Structure for a customer discovery interview

1. Thank the customer for their time. Emphasize how much you appreciate their helping to develop a product or service that will help people just like them.

2. Ask for their perspective on the problem you’ve identified.

Example: How well do you feel our town’s current after-school offerings accommodate girls with non-traditional interests? (Examples of traditional interests are dance, Girl Guides, yoga, music, arts and crafts, and sports.)

3. Ask how the problem affects them personally.


  • How do you and your daughter(s) feel about the current range of after-school offerings?
  • What impact does the limited range of after-school offerings have on your family? (Possible follow-up questions could address the financial impact, for instance, if the family invests in private lessons or hobby supplies because no group programs are available.)

4. Invite them to imagine an alternative.

Example: If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change to improve the situation?

5. Ask them to describe the ideal solution.

Example: What would the ideal after-school program provide for your daughter(s)? What would the program look like? (How would it run? Who would run it? How often would it meet? Where would it meet? What involvement would it expect from parents?)

6. Thank the customer and let them know how you’ll follow up on your conversation.

» UP NEXT: Module 3 — Sketch your business model