Talking to Customers Must be Part of Your Startup Culture

group of people talking

Customers. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we all need them. They’re not always right, they’re often elusive but they’re the lifeblood of any successful company. And that’s true for a business-to-consumer play (B2C) as much as it’s true for business-to-business (B2B) organizations.

One of the risks in dealing with customers is only speaking to a few of them and assuming that every customer and prospect thinks the same way. It’s easy to get caught up with a handful of very vocal customers that are suddenly driving product development. There’s a chance those customers speak for everyone else, and following them makes sense; but the opposite is equally true (and likely more true.)

Companies tend to start with good intentions when it comes to customer dialogue, but it easily falls to the wayside. I’ve seen this with startups that are very successful and those that are not so successful. The very successful ones get overwhelmed with feedback, lose control and can’t figure out how to communicate effectively anymore. The not-so-successful ones turtle, scared to speak with customers, or frozen into uncertainty.

The challenge for startups – in any situation – is to always been in communication with customers and prospects. It’s what Steve Blank and Eric Ries call customer development.

Andrew Chen writes a great blog that you should read regularly. One of his recent posts is: Talk to your target customer in 4 easy steps. It’s not complicated to communicate with customers and prospects but it does take guts, effort and persistence. It has to become part of your company’s culture to do so.

Here’s another interesting, and ultra-simple survey tool: survey.io brought to you by KISSmetrics and Sean Ellis. Sean’s producing some great content on startup marketing; go check it out.

Survey.io produces only a handful of questions (they’re always the same), so you can have a survey up and running in 5 minutes or less. The most interesting (and scary!) question for startups is this one:

How would you feel if you could no longer use [product]?

  • Very disappointed
  • Somewhat disappointed
  • Not disappointed (it isn’t really that useful)
  • N/A – I no longer use [product]

That gets right to the heart of things – it really comes down to whether your product is a painkiller or vitamin.

Whether you’re just starting out, you’re in the middle of development, or you’ve launched and you’re chasing customers — you need to look for ways to easily, quickly and logically talk to customers … all the time. Make it part of your startup’s culture.

May 25, 2009 Posted in Customer Development by

  • http://www.symptomsofdiabetes123.co.cc/diabetes-type Amrizal

    nice article. i have a new cafe in which i will use this tips

    Amrizal Muchtar

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    Very good information. I plan to incorporate a number of these suggestions in my

    blog.

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  • http://neilgorman.com/ Neil Gorman

    One of the things that has really had me scratching my head over the years is how many companies outsource their customer service departments to call centers that clearly can't meet the needs of their customers.

    I think that I understand rational behind outsourcing, but I don't understand the rational behind outsourcing to the lowest cost call center.

  • http://www.buymaxgxlhere.com/ MaxGXL

    I guess one of the most, best value in dealing your customers is simply “To be in Yourself, be True!”

    Nice Post!

  • http://coolproducts.com/ Cool Gifts

    I see the turtle effect a lot. Some business owners are afraid to hear that they're product may be worthless, so they choose to not listen and just go forward blindly.

  • http://www.beyoglutaksim.com/ ali

    deneme

  • http://www.wbsonline.com/resources/ Small Business Guru

    I have to agree with Neil. It's usually pretty obvious when you're talking to an outsourced call center, weather it's because of a language barrier or just a general lack of understanding the product/service or detachment of the rep from the product they're supporting. Especially when it's a young company, this just screams to me that the company is generally unconcerned with effectively communicating to and with their customers.

  • http://www.morepoundstillpayday.co.uk/ Yuva

    I completely agree. Its also important that we need to maintain different forms of communication like mails, cold calls to make them aware that we care for them, so that they would be pleased with our service.

  • Pingback: Having Strong Corporate Values for Startups as a Decision Filter

  • http://www.zseo.blogspot.com/ SEO

    agree

  • Pingback: Recent Lessons Learned In My First Startup | Small Hands, Big Ideas

  • http://www.wrike.com/ Daria Petrova

    Talking to customers is important, especially for a web start-up. But another thing that it important is where, when and how you talk to your customers. I recently came across a very interesting video of ex Salesforce exec. speaking about customer relations: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo….. Very thought provoking. If you are in a web business it's especially important to let your customers know that you're a real person (not an automated messaging machine) and that you care about their needs.

  • anuradhan

    I find this blog interesting ,and made this think on customer providers,just try out and PROMOTE YOUR SITE FOR FREE

  • gokhanht
  • Pingback: How To Write Great Surveys with Actionable Data Results

  • Pingback: Kevin Costner was wrong: Build it and they won’t come | Entrepreneurs

  • Pingback: Product Managers in Startups: What’s their Role?

Ben Yoskovitz
I'm VP Product at GoInstant (acq. by Salesforce).

I'm also a Founding Partner at Year One Labs, an early stage accelerator in Montreal. Previously I founded Standout Jobs (and sold it).

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