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.