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Startup 101: Talk to Your Customers

startup customersOne of the inherent weaknesses for many startup is they’re insular and often so immersed in their own little world that they fail to receive or solicit external feedback.

This includes getting information from customers – something some startups think they can’t do because they have few or no customers. But what has hit home over the past few months is how customer discovery and talking to customers plays a crucial role in how product development, market and sales go forward.

To many marketers, interacting with customers is Marketing 101 but for startups it is something they need to embrace in a bigger way. If they don’t, there is a danger they will create and launch a product that really doesn’t meet a customers’ needs.

This was highlighted a few months ago while developing core messaging for a collaboration startup. After creating what we thought was snappy and smart messaging, it was tested with a potential customer. Sadly, they didn’t get what the startup did. So we had to go back to the drawing board to create messaging that was simple and better.

For startups, customer discovery and customer research can be a challenge during the early days but there are effective ways to approach it. When you have no customers, you need to talk to people or companies who could be potential customers.

Ask them about their points of pain or things that could make their businesses more efficient or profitable. And then ask them how interested they might be in your product and what it might take for them to buy it.

For some startups, they may discover their product doesn’t address what potential customers need. Or they may discover the way early customers are actually using their product isn’t the way a startup thought it would be used. In either case, a startup will receive invaluable insight about their product and the marketplace.

This isn’t to suggest a startup’s idea won’t be successful if they don’t talk to customers or research how customers behave. But a startup stands a better chance of success if they have at least some information about people who have bought their product or may be customers down the road.

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