This lesson plan will help you increase the quality and creativity of the ideas your students work on.
As we’ve talked about before, we know that most successful entrepreneurs don’t focus on products, they focus on problems. So idea generation should really start with identifying the problems we can solve.
Successful business ideas solve problems by addressing the emotional needs of their customers.
Whether by solving problems, or offering pleasurable experiences, all successful business ideas resolve an emotional desire of customers.
Knowing that, one way to come up with business ideas would be to brainstorm lots of different options, and then hope that one of them will resolve an emotional need of your customers. Of course that means your students spend a lot of time coming up with ideas – most of which will have no substantial emotional impact on their customers. Instead, they will go the other way around.
Your students start by understanding the emotional needs of potential customers, and then use their needs to come up with ideas on ways to resolve them.
For this post we will be using the Your Ideal Customers worksheet from the Lesson Plan below.
This exercise will show your students how to develop meaningful ideas that solve problems by helping them…
- Identify the customers they are ideally suited to serve.
- Hypothesize the emotional needs of those customers.
By the time they’re done with this exercise, they will have a set of potential customers they can serve, and some ideas about problems they can solve for them.
Your students will make a list of the groups of people they currently belong to, and all the groups they used to belong to. Each is a group of people whose problems your students understand better than the average person. If they serve members of this group, your students have a competitive advantage because they know them better than other people. The more segments they come up with, the more problems (i.e. ideas) they can come up with. Tell your students to come up with at least 10.
Your students will list the groups of people they are not part of, but are excited to help. In this list, the passion your students have for helping these people will be their unique advantage.
Your students don’t have to know these segments intimately, they just have to want to serve them.
From all the groups of people brainstormed in steps 1-2, students pick the three they would be most interested in helping solve a problem they are facing. Next, it’s time to brainstorm what problems, or emotional needs, your students might be able to help them resolve.
Students will brainstorm the biggest challenges members of the first group face. Once your students have a couple problems written down, imagine “A Day in the Life” of one of these people. What’s it like when they wake up? What do they do after that? Think about how the rest of their day is affected by being a member of this group. Once your students have a rough sense of their average day, ask them to try to identify the hardest part of their day. This process may help your students identify even more challenges they can help them solve.
Students will repeat that process for step the second and third potential customers “segments.” In this scenario, we’re using the word “segments” to describe a group of people with a common set of problems that might ultimately become your students’ customers.
Go to the second page of the worksheet, and list they three potential segments again. For each segment, use the questions to identify emotional situations that either cause members of the group pain or pleasure. These situations are additional scenarios that your students might be able to build a business around resolving for the particular customers – which they can test in future exercises.
Looking at all of the challenges on the first page of the exercise, and the emotional situations on the second page of the exercise, students should identify:
- The situations they hypothesize are the most emotionally intense for their potential customers. Circle the two most intense situations.
- The problems or emotions they are most excited to resolve for their customers. Put stars next to two of those.
Looking at the problems or emotional situations circled and starred, students should choose three combinations of customers and problems/emotional situations they would like to explore going forward. These will serve as their first “Customer” and “Value Proposition” hypotheses, and they will use them as the basis for their first set of business model experiments! If their assumptions are right, they may have just identified their ideal customers, and how they’re going to serve them!
Your students just identified the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems/emotions they’re most excited to help them resolve. In doing so, your students identified several potentials paths that could lead them toward creating a profitable business. By focusing on the people and them as inspiration for business ideas, your students have an infinite source of potentially successful businesses to choose from now, or in the future.
Get the “Your Ideal Customers” Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed “Your Ideal Customers” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.
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