ATB BoostR Resources

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Know your customer

Crowdfunding is a major marketing campaign: your goal is to make the right people aware of your business solution and motivate them to support you. 

Your success with crowdfunding will be proportional to the number of people you can help with your business idea. No matter how cool your idea is, if your business doesn’t solve a problem for your target audience, your success will be limited. 

Let’s dive into some practical tips and tricks that you can use to find and understand your crowd.

Knowing & finding your crowd

Before you think about raising money from the crowd, you need to find a crowd.

Do your homework: why market research matters 

No one likes homework. But Amy and Jeff Nachtigall, masterminds behind Edmonton-based Sugared & Spiced bakery, beg to differ (or at least admit it’s important). They did some pretty extensive market research as they transformed their stall at a local farmer’s market into a bustling brick-and-mortar location, and they’re here to share how they did their homework, along with some suggestions on how you can too.

If at first you don’t succeed...

Initially, market research was trial and error—how much did people like the recipe? What did customers ask for when we changed the line-up?

Ask questions obsessively

We also asked our customers lots of questions, through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Very early on we started an email list. We also used this to take surveys of our existing customers and supporters.

If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em?

To research our competition, we ate at every bakery that we could find. Every spot in Edmonton. Several in Vancouver, Hamilton, Chicago, Boston, and San Antonio. All over Vancouver Island, and a few on Maui. Anywhere we could travel with work or find a great deal on a flight, we would find every bakery we could. We were looking for the small ones, the ones that did things a little differently.

We not only tried their product, but we noted their opening hours, their square footage (both in the back and up front), their product mix, equipment mix, and number of staff. What else did they offer? Were they following trends or creating them? What was the atmosphere among customers in the shop?

Hit the books

We reviewed a variety of industry reports—Business Link was helpful in finding sources of information for us. We looked at IBISWorld reports for areas that we thought might include our products: bread production, and specialty food stores. We looked at industry reviews from Euromonitor International.

We found textbooks that were specifically designed for students learning about opening a bakery. We subscribed to industry magazines and websites. We spoke to business associations in areas where we considered locating the shop. We compared demographics neighbourhood by neighbourhood—we have a map of Edmonton with the average household income written in black marker beside every neighbourhood name!

Go with your gut

It's also crucial to assess your own intuition. When you've gone with your gut on something in the past, were you right? We used the feedback we received through trial and error to fuel our intuition.

Become a research pro

Do as much market research as you can possibly handle, and then do it again. Plan to know more than you need to know. Don't just go through the motions, look for new information and be prepared to have your assumptions destroyed.

Use every avenue to research: interviews, site visits, website comparisons, customer surveys, industry and government reports. Use resources that are offered by your bank or by funded organizations such as Business Link or groups designed to offer support to entrepreneurs; we consulted AWE (Alberta Women Entrepreneurs) early on for advice on sources of financing and help with starting a business plan.

Talk to other entrepreneurs. Consider "Market Research" to be your second or third full-time job.

Researching your target audience

You can’t target the right customer if you don’t know who they are. Consider working through a customer avatar worksheet (you’ll find one in the workbook), researching your competitors, talking to your existing customers, and looking back at your previous social media and other marketing efforts to see what has resonated with your audience in the past. 

While you’re testing the market, it’s vital to understand your potential customers and learn as much as you can about them. The key to developing your target market is to be as specific as possible. 

Find the answers to questions like: 

  • Where do they live? 

  • What do they spend their money on?

  • Do they spend much time online and what types of content do they consume when they are online? 

  • What platforms do they use to connect and share?

Once you know your customer is, what they like, where they hang out, and how to reach them, you’ll be better positioned to serve them with effective marketing. We’ll dive into a more extensive list in the workbook. 

Informal testing and market research 

Before launching a crowdfunding campaign, it’s important to research and discover whether your target market is interested in your idea—and if that interest will translate into revenue. Make sure you also take a look at the competition. The first step is to decide what tools to use.

Qualitative research focuses on uncovering why and how decisions are made. Common ways of doing qualitative research include:

  • Focus groups: bringing customers together for a group discussion about a relevant issue. 

  • Observational: studying customer behaviour “in the wild.” 

  • Experimental: using strategically designed tests to learn more about the market or customers. 

  • Interviews: recorded conversations with customers. 

Quantitative research answers questions with numbers and data. Common tools for quantitative research include:

  • Surveys: using standardized questions to make systematic investigations of a group’s views. Check out Google Forms for a free, easy-to-use tool to survey your customers. Never used Google Forms before? Here’s a quick video tutorial

  • Audits: systematic reviews of the experience of customers. 

  • Point of purchase tracking: using data collected at the point of sale terminal to review customer sale and payment trends. 

Your research should contain both quantitative and qualitative techniques in order to better capture an accurate picture of the market. 

Qualitative research will provide insight into what the market is thinking. For example, if you were looking into opening a coffee shop, qualitative research might reveal that many potential customers love coffee shops that are kid-friendly. 

Quantitative research will provide an overview of the market. To continue our coffee shop example, quantitative research might find that 37 percent of young women in a particular area drink coffee.

What is your competition doing? 

Taking stock of who else is active in your target market is a crucial part of research. Identify the dominant players in the market and consider answering the following questions for each one: 

  • What do they offer? 

  • What is their market share? 

  • What are they doing well? 

  • What are they doing poorly? 

  • How’s this business doing overall?

Once you’ve analyzed both the market and the competition, you should be ready to put it all together and answer these questions:

  • What could you do to compete with these businesses? 

  • How can you stand out? 

  • Is your business idea a good fit for the market? 

  • Do your service level and price match? 

You should start thinking about research as part of brainstorming for your crowdfunding campaign. The results of your research can help you decide if an idea is worth pursuing or if you need to go back to the drawing board.

Here are some free resources for your research: 

BoostR Success Spotlight

Meet Kinia from Pros&Babes

Check her funded BoostR campaign out here!

I started my business because:

I saw a gap in support services for professional women on maternity leave. 

I did a crowdfunding campaign because:

I wanted a structured approach to grow my business and channel my energy into an awareness and marketing strategy. That seemed to be a good approach, and it happened at the right time.I used this primarily as a marketing campaign, I may have only broken even but the crowd I have supporting my business (and me!) grew exponentially. 

I chose ATB BoostR because:

I went to an information session, and an advisor from Alberta Women Entrepreneur recommended it to me. The timing felt right, it felt like a leap, but I thought, “you know what? I might as well do it.” 

My BoostR campaign length:

30 days prolonged to 40 by the BoostR team

My BoostR goal:


Actual amount raised:

$12,000 in sales. We did an event in a silent auction and program registration. The whole campaign generated between $12,000 to $15,000 in revenue.

My rewards were:

Tickets to a Keynote event and enrollment into some of my programs, Professional Development Programs for women on maternity leave and beyond.

The biggest challenge I faced in my crowdfunding campaign was:

Doing this with two children. I had a four-month old and a two-and-a-half-year-old toddler. I was also doing consulting work on the side. It was my mindset in remaining positive even though physically I was tired, it was the winter, doing this for the first time and being afraid that there’s a chance I might not succeed at the end and fail publicly.

My favourite part of running my campaign was:

Working with a team of ambassadors and supporters, seeing everything come to life, learning new skills, and raising money.

I wish someone told me:

No matter what happens, it will be a success, because I believe that business growth is personal growth now, so I wish I didn’t have any fear, any negative thinking that might have held me back or truly wasted time. I wish I could have been stronger from the outside and more resilient.

The scariest part of owning a business is:

The unknown. You don’t necessarily have a blueprint for success, so you must have faith that you will find solutions and the right people to help you get to that next step.

The best business advice I was ever given is:

Mindset before mechanics.

Everything starts with your mindset and your attitude. Deal with your ego. Business growth is personal growth, and people will sense your energy, so work on your energy. Seek accountability first before blaming anybody else for any of your failures, because your success and business is truly about you and how you respond to “failures.” You have the choice to see it as a learning or you can just see it as a blow from which you won’t be able to get up.

What helped you define your target audience for your campaign?

My target audience was already specified—when I originally built my customer persona, I kept asking why to really understand who that person/group was. I targeted professional women who have young children.

How did you use knowing your customer to your advantage?

I know now, where I am in my business, that really knowing my customer inside out and my ideal customer is absolutely critical, because I have to demonstrate how my solution brings value to their situation, so that’s a critical process. 

Since the campaign, I’ve done much deeper reflecting on my target audience, so I constantly use it to my advantage, because I refine my communication, my marketing, how I interact with potential clients based on the knowledge that I have of what kind of problem my customer is trying to solve.

How did you validate your defined target audience? Did you need to go back to the drawing board at any point during your campaign?

I kept my same target audience, and I decided that at different stages of my campaign, I had to do different things. The mentality was “serve, serve, serve, sell.” We wanted to provide more value and less time selling, so the content we did, we wanted it to help the potential customer find solutions. Our event was about providing connection, so I kept the same target audience throughout my campaign.

Building customer personas

We briefly mentioned customer personas in Researching your audience, now it’s time to dive into what it actually means! 

Reminder: what is a customer persona?

Customer personas are fictional characters that represent your ideal customers. They help you get a more concrete picture of who you want to attract to your business, and allows you to relate to your customers as people—not just stats.

Why are customer personas important?

Customer personas drive basically everything that relates to how you interact with your customer, whether it’s the actual product or service you’re providing, which marketing channel you’re using, what content you’re creating, how you’re staying in touch with your customers, the list goes on.

How do you create a customer persona?

Luckily, they’re actually pretty simple to make! All you need to do is figure out the right questions to ask the right people, and then pull all of that information together into a persona. We’ve created a customer persona template for you to use to get you started in the workbook!

Your business might serve a few audiences, based on different products or services you offer. You can definitely create different personas to fit each of these types of customers. 

If you’re more of an auditory and visual learner, watch this video to get a grasp on customer personas.

Understanding your customer’s personality for sales

You know that your customers aren’t cookiecutter, even if they fit your customer persona or are your target market. So how can you sell to your diverse following?

Personality profiling is your new best friend. While tests like the Enneagram, Myers Briggs, DiSK and PSI have gotten massive attention over the years, these aren’t just helpful for personal or even team building reasons— learning to identify and understand different personalities in your customers helps you know how to share your business’s story and offerings in a way that will resonate with different people.

In this article by Hubspot, they break down customers into four main personality types and outline how you can identify and sell to them. Here are the four types you can be aware of as you’re selling. 


The Assertive

Who they are
How to spot them
How to sell to them
• Decisive
• Value concrete information
• Fast workers
• Value results over relationships
• Goal-oriented and competitive
• Look for confident, animated body language, like:
- gesturing while speaking- uncrossed legs and arms
- leaning forward

• Listen for declarative sentences instead of questions
• Run efficient meetings
• Show how you'll put them ahead of their competition
• Don't overdo rapport building
• Always be overprepared
• Tie product features to business results
• Don't wing an answer you don't know—instead say, "I'll look into it and get back to you right away."


The Analytic

Who they are
How to spot them
How to sell to them
• Love data, facts and figures
• Logical and cautious
• Stick to their decisions
• Speak with multiple vendors to make sure they’re decision is thoroughly informed
• They’ve researched your company before your meeting
• Ask detailed questions
• Emphasize facts over emotion
• Serious, direct and formal attitude
• Ask a ton of questions during meetings
• Don’t make high-level claims
• Don’t force rapport
• Work on their timeline—don’t rush their decision making process
• Provide as much detail as possible
• Provide data when you make a claim
• They probably know the basics—emphasize providing customized advice


The Expressive

Who they are
How to spot them
How to sell to them
• Concerned with how business decisions affect those around them
• Creative
• Have strong convictions
• Outgoing and personable
• Spontaneous decision makers
• Value mutual respect and loyalty
• Will try to initiate and grow a personal relationship with you
• Listen for declarative sentences instead of questions
• They tend to be enthusiastic and colourful
• Avoid making offhand promises or comments—they take your words very seriously, and broken promises can mean the end of a relationship
• Show how your product or service’s features and benefits will affect their everyday life
• Tell the story behind your business—facts and numbers alone won’t compel them
• Show case studies to demonstrate real results
• Frame their purchase in light of an ongoing business partnership


The Amiable

Who they are
How to spot them
How to sell to them
• Take their time with decision making
• Love coming up with creative solutions to problems
• Value personal relationship and rapport
• Want consensus within their entire team before making a decision
• Get excited about new challenges
• Have an unstructured work style
• They like to ask personal questions to build a relationship
• Friendly
• Excellent listeners
• Tend to be on the informal side in meetings to foster personal relationship
• Calm
• Patient
• Take the time to get to know them on a personal level and build a relationship
• Guide them through the decision making process
• Pitch them a vision of a better future
• Help them with internal selling and consensus building in their team


In reality, people are typically a mix of these types. But these are a great starting place for you to hone your social awareness and start to customize your sales and rewards.

Now it's your turn! Download the workbook.


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