If you are the CEO of your startup, are you experiencing anxiety over having those customer discovery conversations with potential investors and early-adopters? What if you speak with a prospect and they don’t like your idea? How will you handle a negative response? Will you shut down your startup and take rejection personally?
Customer discovery conversations are where the rubber meets the road, where fantasy meets reality, and where startups get a healthy dose of the business world outside of a university setting.
There’s a fascinating anthropology involved as you identify the business ecosystem in which you would like to launch your venture, your startup.
In case you are one of those startups who are reluctant or intimidated by the thought of speaking to customers, here are 4 tips to get you out of the building. You will find your customer discovery conversations some of the most innovative and engaging ones you will have along your entrepreneurial journey. These conversations, and insight, make the most difference to funders, and funding outcomes.
Tip #1 – You are not your marketplace. Although you may have sold yourself, and your partner collaborators, on how great your idea is, the marketplace may have different thoughts. They will help you create a perspective from their shoes: from the outside looking in at the feasibility and viability of your venture. Engage them in this dialogue early, and continuously, before you get too far down the product development road and realize that you have it all wrong.
Tip #2 – The marketplace is not always right. Some ventures are based on future technology that serves a need customers have yet to anticipate. While they may reject your concept, you must have enough customer conversations to understand whether you will need to educate the marketplace. How will this knowledge impact your milestone activities?
Tip #3 – Understand your customer and marketplace ecosystem. The business and technical world is dynamic. Your customers and investors are not sitting there, frozen in time and space, waiting for you to show up and pitch to them. Take the time to understand the factors impacting their decisions. Determine what the top 3 priorities are for purchase decision making this year. Does your venture fit into their perspective?
Tip #4 – You cannot have enough customer conversations. Your knowledge of your market place is based on quantitative as well as qualitative information. I am talking about having hundreds of conversations, not a handful. You will start to identify trends emerging from your dialogue. You will hear the words customers use to express these dynamics. You will target common denominators impacting decision making that emerge within various customer segments. The net results of dialogue? You will end up knowing your customers and markets perhaps better than they know themselves. That is when they come to regard you as a business and technical thought leader, not another entrepreneur with their hand out asking for money to further their venture.
Customer discovery conversations allow you to differentiate yourself and grow your credibility as a CEO-peer to prospects and investors. It is a continuous exercise.
Engage your marketplace. Differentiate yourself. Grow your venture.
Have you ever thought about customer discovery conversations in this manner? How will you do things differently, starting Now?
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. 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.