Customer startup conversations. Customer discovery. Sales lead nurturing and management. Call it what you will. I am talking about engaging real live customers. The types of customers who will pay real live money for your products and services. After grants and investor dollars are expired and you actually are in business, for real. Even when you’ve been in business for a while, and realize you are stuck and unable to move your business to the next level.
Engaging your customers in your startups involves more than just words. Especially if you have the opportunity to be in the same room with the individual with whom you are conversing. Even a virtual conversation, where there is video along with audio, can offer up a wealth of information for startups at any stage of development.
In working with technical entrepreneurs and startups, our teams have to go forth and talk with customers. Now this definition of customer can mean anyone from a paying end-user to everyone you touch in between. Customers also mean your colleagues, potential investors, the folks designing and manufacturing prototypes, your coaches. Customers.
If your startup has a prototype to offer, or a storyboard, one of the most interesting discoveries is the customers’ initial reactions to being handed the “thing.”
This initial “handshake” between perceiver and the startup item being perceived is often the most unrecorded, un-noticed, event in the entire “customer conversation.”
Think about this scenario. “See” this scenario. You hand “the thing” to the customer, or demo “the thing.” What happens next? I hope not a bunch of showing up and throwing up all the features and benefits. I hope not a static demo which limits the customer to being a voyeur. Are you so busy spieling that you forget not only to use your ears for listening, but also to use your eyes for recording what is happening during your engagement?
Seeing is believing. Not hearing. Not talking. Not listening. “Aha” moments are seen. They involve the entire body reacting to the experience of engaging with your startups’ product or service.
When a customer handles your product, or takes over the control panel in a demo, your product or service starts talking to that customer. Capture this magic moment when they are saying hello to each other. Your eyes should be recording what that customer is doing with the item, how they are holding that item, what part of that item first piques their interest, their manual dexterity in being able to handle that item, how they turn it around and over to garner a 360 degree view of “the thing.”
Situational ergonomic assessment is the key to product, service and platform development for startups. Understanding the quality of engagement, especially in new product development, isn’t something you leave out of your product development formula. You can’t observe whether the customer and product understand each other, if you are busy spieling about all the neat features and benefits and add-ons. The magic moment is at “hello.” Are you making mental notes on what you are observing?
If you had to make a YouTube recording of this startup customer engagement, what would it look like? Now play it back to yourself and take some notes. Aha!
You may just see, and read, the handwriting on the wall. You know that saying. One picture is worth a thousand words.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.