Knowing your customers isn’t just good practice. It’s a requirement. When you’re aiming to serve certain segments of the market, planning for their needs and tendencies is crucial— as crucial as knowing your own industry and its tech or marketing trends. There’s one kind of customer that many of us serve, but not all of us really know how to: the beginner.
Regardless of what you’re selling, selling it to beginners calls for a certain approach. When your customers are newcomers to a sport, hobby, business, or other interest, that has to be factored into your strategy. It affects your marketing, the design of your product, its delivery, and the customer service they’ll need. It has ups. It has downs. And you’ve got to know what those ups and downs are in order to navigate them.
I’ve served thousands of beginners, including beginners at entrepreneurship. I’ve also served experienced business people, so I know what makes the newbies different from the rest of the market.
The customers value you more. When you’re new to something, anyone who’s willing to help you get started is invaluable. The first person to hold your hand and help you navigate an unfamiliar world is someone whose advice you’re going to take. Everything you teach them, no matter how basic, will be a revelation to them.
They have nothing to compare you to, and no frame of reference other than what you tell them.
This means you have two choices: you can take advantage of their ignorance and pocket their money in the short term, or you can give them a solid foundation and earn their trust for the long term. You can probably guess which is more valuable.
You don’t have to be an expert. Like the teacher who’s read a few more pages ahead in the textbook, you don’t have to be some accomplished guru. You only have to have gone further down the path than your customers have. Just being a few steps ahead is incredibly valuable to anyone who’s taking step one.
That’s not to say you have less to offer them. In fact, being closer to their level of experience can be more advantageous than being a seasoned pro. Just by being more relatable and better able to understand the challenges of a beginner, you can serve them more effectively than the greatest expert, whose experience is so far removed.
You can give them wins. And you can do so pretty quickly. Beginners have nowhere to go but up, so helping them make small but significant accomplishments is easy. Those accomplishments, though basic, will mean the world to them. The first time they host that webinar, the first 5 pounds they lose from your fitness equipment, the first time they understand a new concept from your tutoring— these are wins. Those wins build confidence. That confidence builds trust. That trust builds sales.
Beginners are more price sensitive. People who are already established in their hobbies or fields are willing to invest in quality products. They’ll shell out whatever’s necessary for something they’re committed to. Beginners, however, aren’t quite ready to part with a lot of money. Can you blame them? They’re not sure if they’re going to stick with whatever it is. They’re not willing to risk cash for something that may turn out to be a fleeting interest.
In fact, beginners are responsible for a great percentage of refunds. They may take the initial step of buying something, but until they’re truly invested, they won’t truly invest. The New Year’s resolution market is a tricky one; that’s why gyms are crowded in January and empty in December! Until you’ve got a consistent practitioner on your hands, expect them to be conservative.
They need their hands held. Beginners are in the dark, and they need a friend. That’s not a bad thing, but it means they need more of your time and energy. They’ll need constant support and communication. They’ll have a lot— a lot— of questions. Some of those questions may be…less than astute. Some of them may even make you cringe, or sigh, or whomp your forehead ever so gently against the nearest wall. Patience is the greatest gift you can give them— and it’s one they’ll repay down the line.
Their own success will be inconsistent. This may be the biggest disadvantage. Beginners are either unskilled, uncommitted, or both. Some are incredibly motivated, and some are only flirting with the interest in question. Some of them will make great strides, and know that your product helped them do so. Others, not so much— and they may blame you.
Some beginners may not see much progress (through no fault of your product), and assume it’s because what you offered them didn’t do the trick. Intermediates and advanced customers don’t do this; in fact, they’ll probably continue to make progress even if your product isn’t the best. Unfortunately, the best product in the world can’t help some beginners. And it’s hard to demonstrate your value when your customers are failing in their endeavors.
If you serve a beginner’s market, know what you’re getting into. If you’re a beginning entrepreneur yourself, use that experience to build empathy for those whose problems you’re trying to solve. Know how to appeal to them, know how to support them, and anticipate the common problems you’re sure to face. Later, when both yourself and your customers are more experienced, you’ll be glad you did.