When it comes to listening to our customers, users and employees, it’s easiest to focus on the people right in front of you. The ones you see the most often, the noisiest ones, or the ones you just plain like the most. The fact that you’re doing research at all is a step in the right direction, but now it’s time to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
When planning your research, the trick is to look towards the extremes of your potential user base—the fringes of the bell curve. This includes the hyper users—the early adopters and forward thinkers—but also the laggards who are barely adopting your offering, or perhaps aren’t at all.
There are two main reasons to focus research on these two groups of folks:
- Your most extreme users are most in tune with their needs, emotions, and behaviors. The same way we like to hang out with friends who tell great stories, we want to talk to the customers who can give us the best insights. Those folks are the ones at the fringes of our market, with the most defined behaviors and points of view on using (or not using) our product on a regular basis.
- If you can solve for your most extreme users, you can solve for most of them. (TWEET THIS). You will never be able to appease all of your extreme users, but the inspiration and insights you get from those folks will apply to the majority of your general user base. Think of your extreme users like the canaries in the coal mine – they’re experiencing pain points and needs that most of your customers will inevitably hit down the road.
Let’s check out a few concrete examples. If you’re doing research on boosting financial literacy in low income neighborhoods, you would want to seek out the people who are fully in control of their finances—perhaps small business owners, or people who are actively saving for their future goals. On the other end, you might look for people who may not use any financial tools or basic banking services, ‘money under the mattress’ style. You might also talk with children—a group that is just at the fringe of starting to learn about the importance of finances. If you were doing research on the adoption of a new piece of wearable technology, you’d want to shoot for the folks who waited 12 hours in line to grab the new Apple Watch, as well as the people who are just finally starting to carry a flip phone (love ya mom and dad!).