Customer Selection In Research

Previous clients have found the following checklist useful when considering who to include when conducting ‘voice of the customer’ research.

Usability testing and customer persona development are just two examples of where these lists come in useful.

When considering from which customers (or potential customers) you can best learn it’s best to start with diversity.

Many organizations manage ‘squeeky wheel’ customers those who shout the loudest and the most often.  Similarly HIPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) can pull understanding from “real customer” off target. You may well choose to include both your squeezy wheel and HIPPO candidates and indeed learn a lot.

But make sure also to ensure you are talking to those who represent and can best inform your business, product development and communications decisions.  (Those indicative of your target population are called a ‘representative sample’ in quantitative research.)

In other words, be guided by what you want to learn and the learning method you are using (for example a survey or focus group).

Customers By Innovation Adoption

  • Early Adopters
  • Early Majority
  • Late Majority
  • Laggards

In ‘‘Crossing the Chasm’  Geoffrey Moore does an excellent job clarifying the differences amongst these customer persona. It comes down largely to different approaches to risk adversity versus the benefits of innovation.

Customers By User Experience

  • New Customers
  • Experienced Customers
  • Dissatisfied Customers
  • Happy Customers
  • Typical Customers
  • Lead Customers / Super Users – not indicative of the typical user but potentially an early information for future considerations. Carefully consider how super users are different from your average customers. They can be wonderfully informative, and pull you dangerously off course.
  • Defected Customer – particularly useful to speak to when recently defected as they have both experience of your offer, and are likely to be able to articulate weaknesses.

Customers By Profit

  • Largest Lifetime Value – a subsegment of customers who overtime delivery most profit to the organization.
  • Revenue Per Market Segment


Does it make sense to to consider your *non* customers?

This group may help you; understand competitive offers better, uncover needs you don’t yet serve, and throw light on positioning or marketing communications weaknesses.

Alternatively this can assist you to better articulate who you do not serve. Strategy, after all, is about what you don’t, or won’t do.

  • Non-Customers
  • Competitors’ Customers

About Jane Morgan

With 20 years high-tech marketing & product development experience from Boston to Billund, Berlin to Bangalore, Jane has managed teams and tech products with millions of installs, and millions of revenue (annually). She's researched and developed marketing strategy for global markets, and established the blueprint for product & marketing strategy in many new teams. And she's generated leads worth $xxx,xxx (six figures). A freak in the high tech business: Jane studied marketing (she also holds qualifications in German, sociology and environment systems thinking). As an intrapreneur turned entrepreneur, she changed vowels in 2014 and founded JEM 9 Marketing Consultancy. Today she works with CEOs, founders & marketing leaders to assist them in understanding and reaching customers. Speaker on market research and product management. Extensive international experience (primarily US, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, and India). (And she wishes there were paragraph breaks in this.)